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Bonds jurors are second-guessing their votes

May 17, 2011, 8:48 AM EDT

Closing Arguments Delivered In Barry Bonds Trial Getty Images

It’s not often that you see jurors from high-profile cases tracked down well after the case is over, but the New York Times has tracked down the jurors from the Barry Bonds case.

And guess what? Several of them are following the post-trial aspects of the case quite closely.  And whaddaya know, four of the jurors who voted to convict Bonds on the obstruction charge are uncomfortable with their verdict:

Wolfram, 25, who works with developmentally disabled adults in Concord, Calif., said four of the jurors were unsure of the wording of that charge in the first place. She said she and those other jurors noticed that Bonds in his grand jury testimony eventually answered whether Anderson had ever injected him. But he did so a few pages later in his testimony, Wolfram said, not in the section mentioned in the charge. She said she and the other three jurors thought Bonds should not be convicted if he ultimately answered the question.

She said, however, that the jury instructions — which were pretty controversial on the obstruction point and will surely form the basis of an appeal — specifically ordered the jurors to focus only on the part of the testimony highlighted by the prosecution in the indictment, and that she and the others took that to mean that they should ignore the part of the testimony a couple of pages later when Bonds actually answered the question that was asked.

Which is nuts, of course, because the law of obstruction of justice actually cares whether justice was, in fact, obstructed. It’s not about whether a specific question was answered the second it was asked.

Of course, that’s not the only source of juror dissatisfaction. Another juror thinks Bonds is getting off too easy:

“Once the trial was over, I got on the Internet and saw how much incriminating evidence was out there that we weren’t allowed to see as jurors,” Steve Abfalter, a juror from Antioch, Calif., said. “So knowing what I know now, it would be hard to handle if the conviction was thrown out because he was obviously so guilty.”

Understandable, I suppose. But the difference there is that Mr. Abfalter was properly instructed to avoid looking at stuff on the Internet that he feels was incriminating. Because we don’t try people on the Internet, we try them in a court of law. On the other hand, Ms. Wolfram and the other three jurors who were reluctant to convict Bonds on obstruction were improperly instructed to ignore actual grand jury testimony.

In each case, however, what the jurors have to say about it is legally irrelevant. Their job in this case is done and their feelings on the matter have no bearing on what happens next.

So, what happens next? Judge Ilston will have everyone — except the jurors that is — back in court on Friday in order to see what, if anything, should be done with this verdict.  Bonds’ lawyers will ask that it be set aside, but given that the reason for doing so would be rooted in their objection to the jury instructions Ilston herself gave the jury, it’s doubtful she’d actually do it.  That seems to be a matter for the appeals court.

More pressing at the moment will be the decision of the prosecution as to whether to re-try Bonds on the perjury counts on which the jury was unable to reach a verdict.  Also, assuming everything stands as-is, the judge will set a sentencing date for Bonds. A date which will likely be more months into the future than total time Bonds will actually be sentenced to. Which is fun.

  1. heynerdlinger - May 17, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    Seems like interviewing the jurors to determine if they found the instructions confusing might actually have some bearing on whether those instructions were proper.

  2. spudchukar - May 17, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    Having not once but twice been convicted of obstruction of justice, both times after having been found not guilty of the original crime I have often believed and unsuccessfully argued that what justice are you obstructing if you were not involved in a criminal action. Is there any chance the judge tosses the OOJ following the aforementioned reasoning?

    • Jonny 5 - May 17, 2011 at 10:42 AM

      No, not when they know (or think they know) you were guilty even if it was not beyond reasonable doubt. I know a person who was found guilty because of a Judge having bias, which they mentioned the details of off the record after the case was heard and judgement was handed down. A person who never drove was found guilty of driving while Intoxicated,even though they never drove (all lawyers stated it would be a slam dunk with the proper witnesses, which they had) After found guilty the Judge mentioned later how her sister’s best friend was killed by a drunk driver while walking down the road holding hands with her sister. Biased? Hell yes. And as god is my witness, the man never drove, he responsibly was sleeping in his truck while waiting for his friends to wake him up and drive him home.

    • paperlions - May 17, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      The fact that justice may have been done despite your interference is irrelevant to the factual basis of obstruction.
      Also, being guilty and being found not guilty are not the same. One is a fact, the other is a legal finding.

      • spudchukar - May 17, 2011 at 11:10 AM

        To expound a little, in one instance, I arrived on a scene where a fight had taken place before I got there. A girl asked for my assistance, cops were going to enter her room with the excuse they were retrieving a hat and she didn’t want them to. I repeatedly asked them if they didn’t need a search warrant to enter, and was subsequently arrested and charged with being involved in an affray and obstruction of justice.

        The other incident was similar, I walked into a bar and saw that an altercation had just ensued, decided it was not a place where I wanted to be and as I was leaving cops entered. As I was walking out of the bar one cop ordered me to stop and I continued walking out the door. I was apprehended just outside by other cops, charged with being involved in the altercation and obstructing.

        In both instances I was guilty merely of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not co-operating with the authorities. Since I had nothing to do with the original altercations why was my noncompliance criminal? Incidentally, in both happenstances, I was the only person arrested.

  3. hawkinsob - May 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Nobody really cares anymore. The main witness against Bonds has clammed up, so they’ll never really be able to try him properly. Everybody knows this. Its old news. This author, however, will be writing about this case 10 years from now.

  4. chrisny3 - May 18, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    “But then we reread the instructions from the judge a hundred times and it said to focus on one underlined statement from Bonds, from his grand jury testimony,” said Wolfram, who voted for Bonds’s conviction on two of the four charges. “In that part, he avoided answering the question by talking about his dad and his childhood and clearly was parading around the question. So all four of us ended up changing our minds.”

    It’s clear the jury did its job. As I said previously, it was unfair and stupid for Craig to blame the jury foreman for what might seem like an illogical verdict. Saying the jury foreman didn’t do his job without knowing what went into their decision was just lazy, irresponsible and flat out wrong. As I said previously, blame the law, blame the judge but don’t blame the jury.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 18, 2011 at 9:29 AM

      Except the jury foreman I criticized did not say that he was constrained by the jury instructions to vote the way he did. He asserted quite plainly that Bonds did not answer a question that he clearly answered. Which is a misstatement of fact. A misstatement he made to a reporter in an effort to make his verdict appear just, when it clearly was not based on the law of obstruction of justice.

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