Skip to content

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:

source:

 

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Eduardo Rodriguez dazzles in major league debut

    May 28, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

    ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 28:  Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 28, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Red Sox prospect left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut against the Rangers on Thursday.

  2. Rockies prospect David Dahl requires surgery on spleen after outfield collision

    May 28, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT

    rockies logo

    Rockies prospect David Dahl suffered a “massive laceration” in his spleen following an outfield collision Thursday and required season-ending surgery.

  3. Video: Josh Hamilton doubles in first at-bat back in Texas since returning to Rangers

    May 28, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers smiles on base after hitting a double against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 28, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton got a rousing ovation from the home crowd in his return to Texas.

  4. Diamondbacks expected to call up Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Friday

    May 28, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT

    Miami Marlins v New York Mets Getty Images

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia was cut loose by the Marlins earlier this month after proving to be a disappointment in his three-year, $21 million contract, but the Diamondbacks are ready to give him a shot.

  5. MRI shows no structural damage in Scott Kazmir’s shoulder

    May 28, 2015, 8:22 PM EDT

    OAKLAND, CA - MAY 17:  Scott Kazmir #26 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox in the top of the first inning at O.co Coliseum on May 17, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Kazmir left his start yesterday against the Tigers after three innings with shoulder tightness, but it sounds like he might not have to miss much time.

  6. Masahiro Tanaka expected to rejoin Yankees next week

    May 28, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees works out prior to the Yankees baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Washington Nationals/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Tanaka has been sidelined since April 23 due to a right forearm strain and right wrist tendinitis.

  7. Struggling David Ortiz will get a couple of days off to work on his swing

    May 28, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT

    <> during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on May 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. Getty Images

    The 39-year-old Ortiz has just one hit in his last 20 at-bats and is batting an uncharacteristic .216/.303/.377 with six home runs and 18 RBI across his first 43 games this season.

  8. Indians place Carlos Santana on paternity leave list

    May 28, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    carlos santana getty Getty Images

    The Indians placed Santana on the paternity leave list Thursday following the birth of his daughter.

  9. Daniel Nava goes on the disabled list with a sprained thumb

    May 28, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT

    ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game One Getty Images

    Nava has struggled all season, hitting just .159 with zero homers.

  10. Chris Sale dominates the Orioles

    May 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Seven and two-thirds innings, 12 strikeouts and nothin’ else doin’.

  11. Pirates top-100 prospect Nick Kingham undergoes Tommy John surgery

    May 28, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Nick Kingham Pirates AP

    Kingham cracked top-100 prospect lists last season and this season.

  12. Jon Jay ready to return, will add to Cardinals’ outfield logjam

    May 28, 2015, 12:16 PM EDT

    jon jay getty Getty Images

    Jay has been out since May 10 with a wrist injury.

  13. The Big Unit: Wide Angle Watcher

    May 28, 2015, 11:53 AM EDT

    Rush

    I don’t do requests and even if I did, I would’t do Rush requests. But you all have broken me down.

  14. Grant Balfour is leaning toward retirement

    May 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Grant Balfour Getty Images

    He just opted out of his deal with Tampa Bay.

  15. Alex Rodriguez is the all-time AL RBI champion. Sorta.

    May 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez pumps his fist as he runs the bases after breaking Willie Mays' record on the all-time home run list after hitting his 661st home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in New York, Thursday, May 7, 2015.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) AP

    Where is the asterisk-applying crowd when you need ’em?

  16. The Brewers Double-A team’s 55-game road trip is actually going quite well

    May 28, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT

    Old Bus

    In other news, Taco Bell restaurants in Southern League towns are experiencing record sales.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (3585)
  2. D. Wright (2954)
  3. J. Lucroy (2802)
  4. A. Garcia (2718)
  5. Y. Puig (2691)
  1. J. Cueto (2675)
  2. R. Castillo (2628)
  3. M. Adams (2538)
  4. P. Fielder (2372)
  5. B. Harper (2339)