SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Jury selection in the federal perjury trial of home-run king Barry Bonds opened Monday with U.S. District Judge Susan Illston warning potential jurors to shelve their personal feelings about steroids.
“We will ask you to decide the case based on the evidence submitted,” Illston said. “You will not be asked to decide whether you like steroids or don’t like steroids, whether you like or don’t like drugs or those hyped-up caffeinated drinks our children drink.”
Bonds, 46, faces 30 years in prison if found guilty of all the obstruction of justice and perjury charges against him. The baseball legend is accused of lying when he claimed to have never knowingly taken steroids in 2003 testimony before a federal grand jury during the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative steroids inquiry.
An older Latino in the jury pool told the court that his penchant for watching sports could affect his impartiality. “I would be reluctant to render a judgment against a great athlete like Mr. Bonds, so that would cloud my judgment,” the man, an Air Force veteran, said.
Bonds arrived in court shortly after 8:30 a.m., wearing a dark suit and seemingly in good spirits as he chatted and joked with members of his cadre seated directly behind his defense team. His attorneys include Allen Ruby with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Palo Alto, Calif., Cristina Arguedas with Arguedas, Cassman & Headley in Berkeley, and Dennis Riordan with Riordan and Horgan in San Francisco.
Juror candidates entered promptly at 9:30 a.m., filling both the jury box and several additional rows of seating in the courtroom. Four potential jurors had failed to appear and one had a death in the family over the weekend, lowering the jury pool to 55. Bonds’ attorneys and prosecutors had agreed to dismiss 38 individuals based on their answers to a 19-page questionnaire about their familiarity with the BALCO case, baseball and steroid abuse. Two were dismissed for reasons of hardship. While Illston initially said she thought that selection of the 16-member jury would spill over into Tuesday, she later said she hoped to conclude the process by the end of court, adding, “We’ll see how it goes.”
The jury pool was made up of mostly white, non-San Francisco residents, a slight majority of whom were female. Many had already served on criminal trials. Among the candidates were retirees, a full-time student, a postal worker, a Spanish teacher, nurses, small business owners, a carpenter, a library assistant and a former flight attendant who said she would find it difficult to remain impartial in the case because she has worked on chartered flights for football and baseball players. “I’m still getting over my baseball charter,” she said.
The trial is expected to last four weeks.