Bonds Trial Update: It’s now in the jury’s hands

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Closing statements were made at the Barry Bonds trial yesterday. And while closings aren’t evidence — and while in my view they aren’t nearly as important as openings — they always feel like a high point.  The final opportunity to pound the theme of the case home. But they also serve as something of a tell in which the lawyers reveal, whether they intend to or not, what the weakest parts of their case are.

I’ve been in a courtroom (as an observer) for one perjury case in my life and in that one, like Bonds’, the first words out of the prosecutor’s mouth were exactly the same: “All he had to do was tell the truth.”  Maybe there’s a trial advocacy book that talks about using that one, but it’s pretty effective even if it’s common. The jury, especially in this case, can get pretty bogged down in some of the details that formed the basis for the alleged lie, but it’s pretty helpful to remind them that at the end of the day they really are deciding something simple and understandable. Something with which every person has experience and a firm set of moral convictions: lying. In putting it this way, the prosecutors are helping them remove doubt from their heads because we all think — or at least like to think — that we know when we’ve been lied to.

At the same time, the prosecution’s closing underscored the fact that, with the exception of the single charge relating to injections, there was no one who got on the stand who could themselves say “Barry lied, and here’s why.” The prosecutor started a lot of questions with “ask yourself …” making it clear that the jury needs to make inferences based on circumstantial evidence in order to conclude that the grand jury had been lied to. Maybe that makes things easier for them. Maybe, however, it makes them wonder why, if Barry Bonds was a rampant steroids user, no one came into court and said it in plain terms.

I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with what I can gather from reports about the defense’s theme. Bonds’ lawyers argued that the prosecution was a vendetta against Bonds by a government that was angry with him for not being intimidated and subservient in front of the grand jury. Because Bonds refused to say, “Yes, sir,” which irked the government. They said that the main witnesses against him were friends or lovers scorned and that, armed with immunity themselves, were out to get Bonds.  As a proponent of Occam’s Razor, any conspiracy theory is dubious to me, and I wonder if the jury feels the same way. I mean, yes, I think Bonds was singled out, but I don’t think it was a personal thing. It was more about careerism and perpetuating a big investigation that served a lot of purposes, be they legitimate and righteous or not (mostly not). But spite? Eh, tough sell for me.

The defense was on firmer ground when they argued — for really the first time in the case — that even if there were lies told by Barry Bonds, they are not worthy of a guilty verdict because they were not, to use the legal term, material. They did not negatively impact the grand jury as it tried to do its job back in 2003, Bonds’ lawyers argued, nor could they have given how inconsequential and ultimately silly his alleged lies were. The defense noted that the prosecution put no one on the stand who said otherwise. This is not quite true — agent Novitzky said the grand jury was negatively impacted — but Novitzky’s own success in going after BALCO may work against him here. They got convictions of everyone they targeted, most without a trial. If Bonds was truly screwing the legal system with his testimony, the jury may very well wonder why there was no seeming injustice done as a result. No criminals who went free.

The defense likewise did a good job highlighting where the government’s evidence was light and where the witnesses testimony was specifically deficient or contradicted. Their toughest task was to poke holes in Kathy Hoskins’ story about seeing Bonds injected. They tried, but observers in the courtroom thought her credible when she testified and weren’t particularly impressed with the defense’s handling of her testimony in closing arguments.  Unless the jury decides that Bonds’ lie about injections was immaterial — and given how small and silly it seems compared to the other charges which themselves seem rather minor in the grand scheme, it’s entirely possible they could decide that — there’s a good chance Bonds gets nailed on that charge. If he doesn’t, it will be because of the jury’s disdain for the prosecution’s case as a whole, not because of the actual evidence at trial.

And with that, it’s in the jury’s hands. They will deliberate today. We’ll certainly have a reaction when they reach a verdict.

Fans allowed at NLCS, World Series in Texas

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Fans can take themselves out to the ball game for the first time this season during the NL Championship Series and World Series at new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Major League Baseball said Wednesday that about 11,500 tickets will be available for each game. That is about 28% of the 40,518-capacity, retractable-roof stadium of the Texas Rangers, which opened this year adjacent to old Globe Life Park, the team’s open-air home from 1994 through 2019.

The World Series is being played at a neutral site for the first time in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be played at one stadium for the first time since the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Browns at Sportsman’s Park in 1944.

Some of the seats will be included in presales for Texas Rangers season ticket holders on Friday and subscribers on Monday, and others are set aside for MLB and players.

Tickets are priced at $40-250 for the NLCS and $75-450 for the World Series, and 10,550 seats in the regular sections of the ballpark and 950 in suites will be sold in “pods” of four contiguous seats.

Each pod will be distanced by at least 6 feet and a checkerboard pattern will be used, with alternating rows of seats in the middle or rows and at the ends. Unsold seats will be tied back.

No seats will be sold in the first six rows within 20 feet of the field, dugouts or bullpen. Fans will not be allowed to the lowest level, which is reserved for MLB’s tier one personnel, such as players and managers.

Masks are mandatory for fans except while they are eating or drinking at their ticketed seats. Concessions and parking will be cashless, and the team’s concessionaire, Delaware North, is planning wrapped items.

The NLCS is scheduled on seven straight days from Oct. 12-18 and the World Series from Oct. 20-28, with traditional off days between Games 2 and 3 and Games 5 and 6, if the Series goes that far. The Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series all will be being played at neutral sites because of the coronavirus .pandemic.

MLB played the entire regular season without fans and also the first round of the playoffs with no fans. For the first time since spring training was interrupted on March 12, club employees and player families were allowed to attend games this week.

While Texas is allowing up to 50% capacity at venues, MLB did not anticipate having government permission for fans to attend postseason games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles or Petco Park in San Diego, where AL playoff games are scheduled.

Globe Life Field has been the site of more than 50 graduations, but the Rangers played their home games in an empty ballpark.

The Rangers will recommend to MLB that the roof be kept open when possible, executive vice president of business operations Rob Matwick said, but the team understands it will be closed in the event of rain. Matwick said MLB made the decision not to sell seats for the Division Series.

Other than 1944, the only times the World Series was held at one site came in 1921 and 1922, when the New York Giants and Yankees both played home games at the Polo Grounds. Yankee Stadium opened in 1923.