Note: This was published last night. I’m giving it a bump for the morning crowd.
Today oral arguments were heard before an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of The United States of America vs. Barry Bonds. A decision won’t be issued for some time, one presumes, but from the sounds of it, Barry Bonds’ 2011 obstruction of justice conviction is going to be overturned.
Thanks to a Good Friend of HardballTalk, the entire oral argument is on video below. If you don’t wish to watch it all, however, know this much: the court reamed the prosecutors, demonstrating skepticism to the point of being dumbfounded that a person could be convicted of obstruction of justice on the basis which Bonds was convicted.
The court asked all manner of questions of the prosecution about how Bonds’ answer to a question about steroid use which he (a) actually answered; and (b) was found by the jury to have answered truthfully, could be obstruction. They also excoriated the prosecution over the fact that Bonds’ allegedly obstructing statement wasn’t even set forth in his indictment and that the instruction the jury was forced to follow on the matter essentially mandated that Bonds be convicted no matter what he said. Put as plainly as possible: the jury wasn’t allowed to actually see that Bonds, you know, answered the question.
It this all sounds familiar to longtime readers, that’s because I identified these as fatal flaws to the prosecution on the very day the jury rendered its verdict. After the trial was over even the jury felt like the outcome was wrong, learning after the fact that Bonds did, in fact, answer the question and saying that because of the instruction, they felt they were obligated to convict. Legal experts were close to unanimous that the case was botched by the trial judge. Well, almost all legal experts. Some claimed this was a “triumph for the prosecution.” Those people were nuts, of course.
So, where that leaves us: a small chance, I suppose, that the judges’ harshness with the prosecution today was merely to make extra sure that the conviction was proper (sometimes judges are harder on the side for whom they plan to rule in oral argument in that way), but I am skeptical that’s what happened here. Here they seemed dumbfounded. The signal the judges were sending was strong, and that signal was that the Barry Bonds’ conviction rests on impossibly shaky ground and that it must be overturned.
That’s right: for the 2,559th time, Barry Bonds is gonna walk. That’s a record, you know.