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Our initial reaction upon hearing the Barry Bonds verdict was: “How can you obstruct justice without actually lying?”The answer is, you can’t. And at least one legal expert agrees that his conviction should be thrown out for that reason.
Barry Bonds was on trial because prosecutors believed that he lied in front of the grand jury investigating BALCO, a drug supplier that Bonds was associated with. He was brought to trial on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
In order to prove that he obstructed justice, prosecutors essentially had to prove that he lied to them in front that grand jury. But one of the counts of perjury was dropped before the trial ended and the jury could not agree on the other three. (On two of the counts, the jury was actually leaning toward acquittal.)
In other words, the government did not prove that he lied.
The obstruction count included the phrase “evasive and misleading,” which is why the jury eventually found him guilty. But being evasive and misleading isn’t really a crime. Under oath, you’re required to tell the truth, but you aren’t required to be helpful. If the prosecutors didn’t like his answers, they should have asked better questions.
Bonds was not the target of the original grand jury. (He was actually offered immunity in exchange for his testimony.) Five BALCO associates were either convicted or plead guilty as result of that case, so it’s hard to argue that Bonds’ evasiveness “obstructed” any justice.
On May 20, at the next hearing in this case, Bonds’ defence team will argue that very fact. They will say that the jury’s verdict on the Count 5 can’t hold up if they didn’t convict on the perjury charges. (The fact that they were 11-1 to convict on Count 2, means his escape was very narrow, but still an escape.) They will ask the judge to set the verdict aside and let their client go free.
And ESPN’s legal analyst Roger Cossack says if he was the judge, he would agree. The conviction should be thrown out.
This case was all about lying and the government didn’t make its case.
Check out Cossack’s analysis on Mike & Mike this morning: