The 9th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals just ruled that prosecutors in the Barry Bonds/BALCO perjury case may not present urine
samples and other evidence that the government says shows Bonds knowingly used steroids. This ruling upholds a lower court decision barring prosecutors from showing
the jury any evidence collected by Bonds’ personal trainer Greg
Not to go too technical with this, but the basic argument by Bonds’ lawyers was that the prosecutors should not be able to admit into evidence test results, calendars and other documents which purported to prove that Barry Bonds knew he was taking steroids because they were hearsay. They could not be authenticated, they could not be verified for accuracy, and there was no way for Bonds’ lawyers to attempt to impugn the evidence whatsoever.
The prosecutors’ arguments to the contrary revolved around several exceptions that exist allowing hearsay evidence to be admitted. I read the appellate briefs and I can tell you: the prosecutors’ position was not at all convincing. Basically, they argued that the records, though hearsay, should be
admitted because, well gosh darn it, this is the only evidence we have! However satisfying such an argument was, legally speaking it was an argument that was dead on arrival. Which, by the way, I predicted over a year ago when the prosecutors started making it.
And really, it shouldn’t have gotten that far. As we learned more than two years ago, Bonds’ testimony wasn’t all that strong a basis for a perjury charge to begin with. The guy took steroids, sure, and he was certainly trying to be coy about it at the time, but it never seemed to me at all that the prosecutors did the job necessary to justify a criminal charge over it. That kinda matters because we don’t put people in jail in this country because they’re jerks who probably did it. We require the government to bring strong cases and prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. There were doubts aplenty here as to whether Bonds was lying to the grand jury.
The only way that evidence would be able to come in was if Greg Anderson testified about it, explaining what each document represented, when he prepared it and why. Greg Anderson famously refused to testify, however, and did a lot of time in jail because of it. It was ultimately his decision, but one that the prosecution was stuck with. Once he made it, the viability of any prosecution of Barry Bonds ended.
Or it least it should have ended it. This ruling should finish the job. To date, however, the prosecution has taken every available opportunity to delay the case. They waited until the eve of trial to take their appeal. They extended the thing with an unorthodox en banc appeal that delayed things even longer. In light of this, I’m sure they’ll do some more delaying before they finally and formally dismiss the case.
But dismiss it they should.