Barry Bonds Closing Arguments: Guess You Had to Be There
Closing arguments were held yesterday in the Barry Bonds perjury trial. If you thought you could get a sense of how they went from media reports, think again. It's like they were in different courtrooms watching different trials.
The San Francisco Chronicle reporter leans heavily towards the Government, praising prosecutors and characterizing the defense as "flailing around."
...the prosecutors finished strong, while the defense seemed to flail around, devoting a lot of its time to attacking governmental power.
Mark Purdy at the San Jose Mercury News said the opposite: Defense attorney Allen Ruby "stole the show" and owned the courtroom while the prosecutors never connected:
Allen Ruby, the lead Bonds attorney, easily won the best of show award for the trial. Friday, he was a Pavarotti during his closing argument, his deep voice commanding the courtroom as he uttered memorable quotes...By contrast, the leadoff prosecutor, Jeff Nedrow, looked like Alex Smith trying to win a big game for the 49ers. Very smart, very earnest, but never quite able to make the big statement when it counted.
Purdy says the trainer Greg Anderson's refusal to testify left a gaping hole in the Government's case:
When the history of this case is written, I'm convinced the quick version will boil down to this: When Greg Anderson decided he would rather go to jail than testify about whether Bonds was telling the truth about steroids, Anderson more or less threw a fat fastball down the middle for Bonds' attorneys to hit. And they clouted it out of the park.
Purdy says prosecutor Matt Parrella rallied a bit in his rebuttal closing. Of course he did, he knew he had the last word and the defense wouldn't be able to come back and refute him. (The Government gets two shots at closing since it has the burden of proof.) And maybe I'm missing something, but I thought the issue wasn't whether Bonds took steroids, but whether Bonds was lying when he told the grand jury, "Not that I know of." The prosecutor pointing out the defense never denied he took steroids is a red herring if the issue is whether Bonds knew what he took was steroids.
Purdy thinks the only count the jury will come back guilty on (if any) is the "injection" charge which Kathy Hoskins testified to. Her testimony seemed credible to many because while she's Steve Hoskins' sister, she didn't want to testify. She testified she once saw Greg Anderson inject Bonds in the stomach. Barry Bonds told the grand jury no one gave him injections but his doctors.
The Government apparently presented no direct evidence Bonds knew he was taking steroids:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow said Thursday that based on testimony from other ballplayers—who said they bought steroids from Mr. Bonds's trainer, Greg Anderson—"you can infer Bonds knew he was getting steroids."
That's a stretch. Especially when the Government's witnesses were cooperators getting immunity or leniency for their own steroid use.
The Government has to convince 12 jurors Bonds is guilty. The defense just needs 1 holdout juror not to be convinced of guilt. Among the defense arguments:
Mr. Bonds was taking legal corticosteroids—anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by his doctor—that can cause similar side effects to performance-enhancing drugs.
.... Mr. Bonds's lawyers never denied that Mr. Bonds used an undetectable steroid called "The Clear" in 2003; they acknowledged that he took the substance at the behest of his trainer, Mr. Anderson, but said Mr. Anderson never told Mr. Bonds what the substances were. Mr. Bonds told the grand jury he thought he was taking flax-seed oil.
Defense lawyers also argued that Mr. Bonds's 2003 statements to the grand jury—which was investigating a Bay Area steroid dealer—weren't material to the grand jury's probe. In order to be convicted, the jury must find that Mr. Bonds made false statements that were material to the investigation.
Mr. Bonds's lawyers said prosecution witnesses, including Mr. Bonds's jilted ex-girlfriend and an estranged former business partner, were unreliable. They also said prosecutors should have asked Mr. Bonds more direct questions in front of the 2003 grand jury, rather than allow him to give vague answers that then formed the basis of the criminal case.
It sounds like the defense hit all the right notes. And not calling defense witnesses is consistent with their theory the burden of proof lies solely with the Government and they didn't meet it, so there was no need to put on a defense case.
I don't think anyone will be shocked if Bonds is found guilty on at least one charge. On the other hand, if he's acquitted on all counts, it will be a big blow to the Government and its steroid witch hunt.
If convicted, Bonds' guidelines are likely to be 15 to 21 months, but considering other players' with those guidelines got no jail time, it's very possible Bonds won't either.
So, how about a poll: What will the jury verdict be?
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