The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Barry Bonds’ criminal conviction for obstruction of justice today. While he could potentially appeal again to the Supreme Court such appeals are rarely if ever granted. This is probably it for him, and he’ll likely soon have to serve his 30 day home confinement sentence.
In denying the appeal, the court ruled that the statement Bonds gave to grand jurors in response to a question about whether he was ever given injections of any kind by Greg Anderson “served to divert the grand jury’s attention away from the relevant inquiry of the investigation, which was Anderson and BALCO’s distribution of steroids and PEDs. The statement was therefore evasive.”
As I’ve noted several times, however, the verdict on this question, and now this ruling from the appeals court, is bizarre. Bonds was asked a yes or no question. He went off on a tangent for a bit, but then the prosecutor led Bonds back to the subject at hand. Here was his answer:
Did he evade? He tried to, sure. For a few seconds. And then he answered “no.” How this misled anyone or how this was any different than thousands of question/answer exchanges in grand jury testimony is beyond me.
It’s beyond the jurors too, as four of them said after the trial that they felt compelled to give this verdict despite the fact that Bonds answered the question and that they were deeply uncomfortable with that. So why did they do it? Because the prosecutor’s jury instruction adopted by the judge prohibited them from looking at the part of the testimony where Bonds answered the question. Which is just dumb. A man was convicted of evading a question that he did not, in fact, evade. And the jurors were prevented from considering the fact that he answered the question in determining his guilt. They were directed to only look at the small part of his testimony where he did, for a moment, go off-topic.
Bonds probably lied elsewhere in his testimony, but those lies weren’t the subject of the count on which he was convicted or this appeal. Indeed, he was acquitted of lying in those instances. It was only about this bit. And in this bit, Bonds answered the question asked. Now he’s got a criminal record for it.
You may like that if you don’t like Barry Bonds. Or if you think that, since he likely skated free on charges he was likely guilty of, it’s OK to get him on a charge he isn’t guilty of. But it’s not justice and it’s not right.