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Barry Bonds’ lawyers argue his obstruction of justice conviction today

Feb 13, 2013, 9:06 AM EDT

Barry Bonds AP

Barry Bonds lawyers will head into court today to argue his appeal of his obstruction of justice conviction today. There will be no decision today because that’s not how appellate courts roll, but when you read the Bonds headlines later, that’s what it’s about.

To review: Bonds was acquitted on all counts of perjury, but convicted for obstruction of justice. The basis for that conviction: a rambling answer to a question about whether anyone besides team doctors ever injected him with anything. His initial answer was something incoherent about being a “celebrity child.” Prosecutors and the jury say that that answer was “intentionally false, misleading and evasive.”

What no one ever seems to mention, though, is that Bonds actually answered the question:



As I’ve said before: maybe that “no” is lie. Probably is in fact. But the jury didn’t agree, acquitting him on that very question with respect to the perjury count. No, the prosecution claimed, and the jury agreed, that the question was not answered. That Bonds “misled and evaded” the grand jury.

The prosecution can say that all it wants — and maybe the appeals court will uphold the conviction because courts hate overturning jury verdicts as a general rule — but the fact is, Bonds was asked a yes or no question and he answered “no.”  He rambled for a minute, just as every single witness in every single deposition or grand jury hearing in the history of Anglo-American jurisprudence has done.  But he answered the question.  Even the jurors, interviewed after the trial, agreed that he did and questioned their conviction of him. “Wolfram” was one of the jurors:

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.

Wolfram said later, however, that they felt they had no choice because the jury instructions — authored by the prosecution — forbade them from looking at his “no, no” answer a page or two after the question was initially asked. To repeat: The prosecution, via the judge’s approval of their jury instruction, specifically told the jury TO NOT LOOK AT THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION. That is the legal basis of the appeal, by the way: bad jury instruction that all but required a guilty verdict, regardless of the actual facts.

Whatever the case, how all this constitutes obstruction of justice is utterly baffling to me still, a decade after he answered the question. Courts and common sense agree: It is not the job of the criminal justice system to punish an evasive or non-responsive witness. It is the job of the person asking the question to pin an evasive witness down. Here the lawyer in question didn’t do that, but either way, the question was ultimately answered.

Anyway, it’s now up to the Court of Appeals to explain how that constituted obstruction. I’m quite eager to hear how it does. And if it does, I’m quite eager to see if prosecutors start adding obstruction of justice counts to every single case on every single docket in the American judicial system. Because on this rationale, they most certainly could.

  1. dcfan4life - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Honostly, i just want this Bonds crap to end.

  2. chill1184 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    I hate Barry Bonds but this whole episode was nothing but a pathetic joke, just a bunch of scum sucking low life parasites (you may know them as politicians) trying to score political points.

    • cur68 - Feb 13, 2013 at 6:06 PM


  3. jkcalhoun - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but you do not answer the prosecution’s questions promptly, they will turn all over you.

  4. American of African Descent - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    So then is it a bad jury instruction? Because an appellate court will overturn a conviction for a bad jury instruction much more quickly than it will overturn a conviction on sufficiency of the evidence grounds.

  5. dexterismyhero - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    His head looks much smaller now doesn’t it?

    • Old Gator - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      • jimeejohnson - Feb 13, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        Thumbs downs courtesy of small heads!

  6. jwbiii - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    The remedy, the Court concluded, lies not in a subsequent perjury prosecution but in an alert examiner who detects the unresponsiveness and persists with follow-up questions.

    Which is just what the examiner did, which resulted in Binds’ “No, no” response after babbling for a minute or two about being a celebrity child and the nature of friendship as he views it.

    I’ve never sat on a grand jury, but I have sat on two criminal juries. If the DA hit every witness who babbled for minute or two before answering a question with a felony rap, nobody would ever testify.

  7. randygnyc - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Very informative article/explanation, Craig. I’m quick to point out when I think your bias interferes with your work, so it’s only fair to acknowledge a job well done.

    Bonds answered the question. Period. Railroaded with the conviction. That said, his records should bear the scarlet asterisk and should be blacklisted from the HOF in enduring perpetuity.

  8. lpd1964 - Feb 13, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    So he answered the question, anybody think this turd didn’t use PEDS? His head was bigger than a Macy’s Thanksgiving balloon. This pleasant fellow allowed his dopey trainer to sit in a jail cell rather than do the right thing. I could go on and on but he answered the question hooray!! The sad part is Bonds was a hall of famer prior to looking like popeye. Good for Bonds-he answered the question.

  9. stercuilus65 - Feb 13, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    Yet another Craig piece defending a roider? Shocked I tell you, I’m shocked!!!

    • manchestermiracle - Feb 14, 2013 at 12:06 AM

      You are conflating the defense of accuracy with defending Bonds’ PED use. Two entirely separate subjects. Our court system is designed to try and insure accuracy when convicting someone of a crime. Double murderer O.J. Simpson walked because the prosecution did a sloppy job, not because he was innocent.

      The phrase “Better ten (or a hundred or a thousand) guilty men go free than one innocent man suffer” has been repeated throughout history, from the Bible to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. In the end lowlifes like Simpson end up where they belong after all. Bonds may certainly escape any punishment from the court, but his legacy is well and truly tarnished.

  10. garlicfriesandbaseball - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:28 AM

    After a year of having the prosecutors, investigators and the kingpin in San Francisco, federal agent Jeff Novitzky climbing through Barry Bonds garbage cans, this is the only thing they could come up with???? What a freaking waste of taxpayer money.

  11. garlicfriesandbaseball - Feb 14, 2013 at 1:46 AM

    Reblogged this on Garlicfriesandbaseball's Blog and commented:
    GFBB Note: Craig Calcaterra who penned this post is a lawyer and has some really intereresting comments on this case. Example: “…..the fact is, Bonds was asked a yes or no question and he answered “no. And ” It is not the job of the criminal justice system to punish an evasive or non-responsive witness”. If you’ve been following this case you’ll like this article.

  12. jessethegreat - Feb 14, 2013 at 2:24 AM

    I would rather our tax money was spent going after real criminals. Barry’s actions didn’t effect anyone but himself. He did nothing to harm society. He may have even helped it by being one of the centerpieces in the performance enhancing drugs crack down (by shattering records; be brought the epidemic more light and attention than it otherwise would have gotten). He made sports writers across the country question the legitimacy of the records that were falling and may have saved other players from taking the same path with drugs they don’t know much about’s lasting effects will have on their futures.

    Besides, hey may have been difficult for the media to deal with, but he was still a better person than Lance Armstrong.

  13. buffalomafia - Feb 14, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    I bought steroids from Barry Bonds!

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