In a terse per curiam opinion, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Barry Bonds’ conviction for obstruction of justice.
The feds prosecuted Bonds based on his answers to this line of questioning:
Prosecutor: “Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?”
Bonds: “I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but … we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want — don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?”
Bonds: “That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see. …”
Prosecutor: “And, again, I guess we’ve covered this, but — did [Anderson] ever give you anything that he told you had to be taken with a needle or syringe?”
Bonds: “Greg wouldn’t do that. He knows I’m against that stuff. So, he would never come up to me — he would never jeopardize our friendship like that.”
Prosecutor: “OK. So, just so I’m clear, the answer is no to that, he never gave you anything like that?”
I’d forgotten the flimsy basis of Bonds’ conviction.That type of exchange occurs all the time during civil depositions and trials. I’ve seen countless witnesses testify in a manner similar to Bonds. Did Bonds answer the question directly? No. Did he eventually answer the question? Yes. So the feds prosecuted Bonds for not answering the question the first time? That constitutes a felony now? Puh-leeze.
Good lawyers persist in the face of evasive answers and secure the answers they need. Once that’s accomplished, the lawyer continues. That’s what the prosecutor did with Bonds. The fact that the feds resorted to going after Bonds for obstruction based on that testimony demonstrates the utter failure of their investigation.
Without condoning Bonds’ evasive answers, and notwithstanding my belief that jurors should decide facts, I don’t see how his testimony can constitute a felony. I’m happy the Ninth Circuit reversed.