9th Circuit Overturns Barry Bonds Conviction

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday reversed Barry Bond’s conviction for obstruction of justice that resulted from his rambling, nonresponsive answer to a simple question.
     An 11-judge panel today found “insufficient evidence” that Bonds’ statement was “material” and that his conviction for obstruction of justice was therefore not supported by the record.
     Since reversal for insufficient evidence implicates a defendant’s rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution, Bonds’ conviction and sentence must be vacated and he may not be tried again on the same count.
     Bonds testified before a grand jury in 2003 after a raid on Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) yielded evidence of doping in professional sports.
     Bonds, testifying with immunity, answered questions about his own steroid use with incoherent statements about his father and being a “celebrity child.”
     Prosecutors later indicted Bonds for perjury and obstruction. Jurors agreed that he had obstructed justice with the “celebrity child” answer, but deadlocked on the perjury charges.
     The full statement for which he was convicted was prompted by the question whether former trainer Greg Anderson ever gave Bonds anything that required a syringe to inject.
     Bonds answered, “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.”
     A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit denied Bonds a reversal last year, leading him to petition for an en banc rehearing in November 2013. The court granted that request last summer.
     In a concurring opinion, Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski wrote: “The most one can say about this statement is that it was nonresponsive and impeded the investigation to a small degree by wasting the grand jury’s time and trying the prosecutors’ patience. But real-life witness examinations, unlike those in movies and on television, invariably are littered with nonresponsive and irrelevant answers.”
     Kozinski noted that sometimes people think without speaking, which, according to Kozinski, lawyers do with “surprising frequency.”
     The circuit judge continued: “Because some nonresponsive answers are among the road hazards of witness examination, any one such statement is not, standing alone, ‘capable of influencing the decision of a decision-making body.'”
     Fellow circuit judges Diarmuid O’Scannlain, Susan Graber, Consuelo Callahan and Jacqueline Nguyen joined in Kozinski’s concurring opinion.
     Circuit Judge N. Randy Smith found that “no reasonable juror could have found Bonds guilty” of obstruction. He was joined by circuit judges Kim McLane Wardlaw, Callahan and Michelle Friedland.
     Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote a separate opinion agreeing with the ruling but disagreeing with some of Kozinski’s and Smith’s points while Circuit Judge William Fletcher disagreed with the rationale behind the panel opinion but agreed with the judgment.
     Only Circuit Judge Johnnie Rawlinson dissented, writing, “Barry Bonds received a great deal of immunity in exchange for his truthful and candid testimony before the grand jury. Rather than aiding the grand jury in its investigatory quest, Bonds elected to obstruct the grand jury process by giving evasive testimony.”
     According to Rawlinson, the concurring and full panel decisions “impermissibly second-guess the jury verdict, disregard our precedent, create an unwarranted circuit split and import inapplicable principles from Bronston into the obstruction of justice analysis. I cry foul.”
     Bronston v. United States is a U.S. Supreme Court decision that strictly construed the perjury statute. Kozinski cited the ruling in his concurring opinion.
     Bonds is represented by Dennis Riordan, a partner with Riordan & Hogan in San Francisco. Riordan did not reply to a request for comment by press time.
     The present ruling lists the lead attorney for the government as Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan, who referred Courthouse News’ request for comment to public information officer Abraham Simmons.
     Simmons said the federal government had no comment.
     In a statement, Bonds said, “Today’s news is something that I have long hoped for. I am humbled and truly thankful for the outcome as well as the opportunity our judicial system affords to all individuals to seek justice. … I am excited about what the future holds for me as I embark on the next chapter.”

%d bloggers like this: