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The judge in the Bonds case still mulling whether to set aside his conviction

Aug 26, 2011, 8:24 AM EDT

Barry Bonds

It’s been over four months since Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice and over two months since Bonds filed a motion to have that conviction set aside. Yesterday Bonds’ lawyers and the government had oral arguments in front of Judge Susan Illston about it all, but she’s still thinking about it, no decision has been reached and she gave no indication when would be.

You’ll recall that the primary basis for Bonds’ motion was that one cannot or at least should not be convicted of obstruction of justice on the basis of giving “evasive testimony” when in fact he actually answered the question.  And Bonds did — after a brief, meaningless digression — answer the question at issue with a straight “no” answer.  And answering the question aside, the law in this area makes it clear: the burden is on the prosecutor to direct a less-than-cooperative witness to answer a question, not to simply let him ramble, throw his hands up in the air and cry “obstruction!” or “perjury!”

All that said, I wouldn’t necessarily read anything into the fact that the judge didn’t issue a ruling yesterday. Maybe it’s an indication that she’s not hot affirm the conviction or maybe she’s flummoxed, sure, but it’s also just as likely that she’s been waiting/hoping that Bonds and the prosecution would settle all of this somehow thereby preventing her from even having to rule.  I mean, I’m sure there are more important matters on her docket.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 26, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    So who do you think is being more stubborn here…the prosecution or Bonds? If cooler heads would prevail, they would settle something and move on, but SOMEBODY has to be level headed and it doesn’t appear either side is at this time.

    • The Common Man - Aug 26, 2011 at 9:25 AM

      What’s Bonds’ incentive to negotiate? He’s been convicted on one charge. Unless the prosecution is going to drop it now, there’s not a lot to talk about at this point, is there? Maybe I’m missing something.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 26, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        I just think if the judge is waiting to put out a sentence or ruling, I agree with Craig that it is likely that she is hoping the two sides will come to some type of an agreement outside of her court. I don’t exactly what Bonds could do for the prosecution, but I am thinking that the prosecution could offer Bonds a sentence with no jail time in exchange for something…again, not a lawyer so I am not even sure what they could offer.

    • aaronmoreno - Aug 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      Stubborn? How is trying to avoid a conviction, guilty or not, being stubborn?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 26, 2011 at 10:47 AM

        Craig wrote this…

        “but it’s also just as likely that she’s been waiting/hoping that Bonds and the prosecution would settle all of this somehow thereby preventing her from even having to rule. I mean, I’m sure there are more important matters on her docket.”

        I was responding SPECIFICALLY to that quote. Jesus do people read what I write, or do they just see the name and just write nonsense couched in the form of a rebuttal???

        Clearly, as a former lawyer, Craig thinks there is a way for this issue to be worked out by the prosecution and Bonds without the need of a judge making a ruling. So one of the sides, or maybe both, are being stubborn and not wanting to move from their position here. Either Bonds wants no jail time and no nothing or the prosecution wants jail time and the complete conviction to stand.

        Either way, there is a way to work this out and one or both are being STUBBORN. And since they are both leaving it in the judge’s hands, then one is likely to wish they weren’t so STUBBORN when that decision is handed down.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Aug 26, 2011 at 10:51 AM

        To be clear: I actually don’t see a way that either side — given what we know about their motivations, which may not be everything — will change their position. My only point was that the judge may have been hoping that wasn’t the case. Indeed, it’s common for judges, even after being told by both sides that, no, there will be no settlement, we need a ruling, to continue to hold off on ruling hoping against hope that minds are changed.

  2. The Common Man - Aug 26, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Shame on you, Craig. What could be more important than making sure that an eight-year old charge of obstructing justice surrounding a non-violent crime in which no one was actually harmed (except, of course, for our precious, precious innocence)? There are third graders starting school this week who weren’t alive when all this happened; how do you ever expect them to learn about how bad a person Barry Bonds is if we don’t put the scalawag behind bars?

    • The Common Man - Aug 26, 2011 at 9:14 AM

      Wow, my second sentence isn’t actually a sentence. Need coffee. And an edit function.

  3. djwtorhockey - Aug 26, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    The Judge didn’t issue a decision right away, because Judges rarely issue decisions on motions after oral argument. The purpose of oral argument is to allow the Judge to ask counsel questions, and allow counsel to emphasize particular issues to a judge, and once that is done, the oral argument should be properly evaluated. While a judge might decide pre-trial evidentiary issues from the bench, since those issues are more common and are time-sensitive, there is no reason, or expectation, for a judge to rule on a dispositive motion after oral argument. Even if her mind is made up, this is the type of motion for which a written decision is needed. Bottom line, nothing at all can be derived from the fact that she didn’t rule from the bench.

    NY Lawyer

    • Craig Calcaterra - Aug 26, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      It’s not just that she didn’t rule from the bench. It’s also that she provided no timeline for her ruling after oral argument, which those who have covered this case throughout felt was notable.

  4. bennoj - Aug 26, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    The judge is waiting to issue a ruling during the World Series to stick it to Bud.

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