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?

< Thursday Night TV and Open Thread | "Some Say" Dems Prefer Spinelessness >


What will the Barry Bonds Jury Decide?
Not Guilty on All Counts 20%
Guilty on one to three counts 60%
Guilty on all counts 0%
Hung jury, no verdict 20%

Votes: 15
Results | Other Polls
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    Steroids (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Ray Radlein on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 02:50:40 AM EST
    Mr. Bonds was taking legal corticosteroids--anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by his doctor--that can cause similar side effects to performance-enhancing drugs.

    That's the thing that's always confused/annoyed me about coverage of steroids in baseball: The fact that steroids have been used, and continue to be used in baseball — as in most other sports — constantly and openly.

    When your star pitcher or hard-working catcher gets a cortisone shot in their elbow or knee to relieve soreness and swelling down the pennant stretch? That's a steroid. That's what steroids are for. They reduce inflammation and swelling in joint and muscle tissues (which is why bodybuilders take them to build muscles — the same exercise which builds muscles rapidly will tear up muscles and joints rapidly; steroids help prevent that).

    When Mark McGuire started taking (then-legal) andro-precursor supplements with the Cardinals, he was already one gigantic freakish muscle designed to hit home runs. But he was a gigantic home run-hitting muscle who constantly got sidelined with injuries during the season. And then, lo and behold, he took his andro supplements, and stayed healthy long enough to hit his 70 home runs. All steroids seemed to do for him was the same thing that J. Random Pitcher's corticosteroid shots do: Keep him playing. And once he stopped taking the supplements, when they were outlawed, well, lo and behold, he kept getting injured again.

    [n.b.: In many important ways, the steroids don't actually heal these injuries, so much as mask them temporarily, while doing all kinds of unpleasant things to the rest of your body; but that's the sort of trade-off we seem to demand of athletes all the time in lots of other ways. These are powerful drugs that do powerful things, and it's well within the purview of baseball to decide for itself whether to allow some, or none, or all of them to be used by players; but the whole issue of "steroids" is no more black-and-white than, well, any other "drug" issue]

    Thank you (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by sj on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:50:23 AM EST
    you helped clear up some of my confusion.

    Can inhaled steroids (for asthma) (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by observed on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:57:23 AM EST
    give a positive test result?

    Testing (none / 0) (#6)
    by Ray Radlein on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 10:38:32 AM EST
    I have no idea of the nature or sensitivity of the tests they use, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if they did.

    Jury had a question (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Peter G on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 05:59:37 PM EST
    after three hours of deliberation, about the tape of Anderson seemingly admitting he had injected Bonds many times -- which of course bears on the count that Jeralyn highlighted above.  Trial lawyers hate to have cases go the jury on Friday afternoon, since it seems to encourage or pressure them to reach some sort of compromise verdict right away, even after a long trial such as this one, so they don't have to come back next week. If the jury doesn't decide today, it suggests there is some real disagreement in there.

    No verdict by end of Friday (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Peter G on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 08:39:23 PM EST
    Deliberations resume Monday at 8:30 am PDT.

    see my lastest open thread (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:42:33 PM EST
    the jury will also rehear Kathy Hoskins' "injection" testimony Monday. Sounds like at least one person on the jury is trying to convince at least one other there's evidence of guilt.

    Also, the jury got told the prosecutor misstated some evidence during closing.

    They started deliberating early this morning so they had almost a full day.


    In related news... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by desertswine on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 07:55:07 PM EST
    Manny Ramirez retires rather than take a drug suspension.

    Perjury witch hunt (none / 0) (#2)
    by diogenes on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 08:56:56 AM EST
    "...a big blow to the Government and its steroid witch hunt."

    As the prosecutor said, if Barry Bonds had told the truth about using steroids, there would have been no trial and no perjury charge.
    You don't have to be a cynic to think that Barry Bonds knew what he was doing all along.  Unless you think that OJ is going to find the "real murderer" sometime soon.

    Somebody tell the prosecutor... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 10:02:28 AM EST
    two wrongs don't make a right.

    So he lied about 'roiding up...lets not make a federal case out of it (too late).  It's called discretion.


    tell Scooter Libby this (none / 0) (#13)
    by diogenes on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 11:06:33 PM EST
    You either prosecute blatant, overt perjury, or you don't.  Jerry Brown and Barack Obama are welcome to exercise discretion and pardon people convicted of perjury in their respective jurisdictions.

    Greg Anderson (none / 0) (#7)
    by CoralGables on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 01:26:06 PM EST
    After 17 1/2 days behind bars in the Dublin Federal Prison, Barry Bonds' former trainer Greg Anderson was ordered released today by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

    Since the trial is over, he is no longer (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Peter G on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 04:22:50 PM EST
    "refusing" to testify.  Therefore, Anderson is entitled to be released.  That's how civil contempt works.

    Scooter Libby (none / 0) (#14)
    by diogenes on Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 11:09:05 PM EST
    So if Scooter Libby refused to testify to the grand jury, all he would have gotten would be civil contempt and a jailing for the duration of the grand jury?  Is this even an offense for which one can be disbarred?