Barry Bonds, the beleaguered former seven-time baseball All-Star, had his conviction overturned today by the United States Court of Appeals.
The San Jose Mercury-News is reporting that Bonds, who was originally found guilty of obstruction of justice in 2011, had his conviction overturned by a vote of 10-1 in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. With his conviction overturned, and most of the other charges dropped before the trial, Bonds now has no criminal activity on his record. Though he can now be considered a candidate for baseball’s Hall of Fame, his admission that he used steroids accidentally will still hang over his head with Hall of Fame voters.
The conviction overturned ends a prosecution that began in 2003 with the BALCO investigation. The appeals court also prohibited the Justice Department from retrying Bonds, citing prohibition of double jeopardy, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as the Justice Department’s only recourse in this matter.
In a statement, Bonds said he was relieved now with the conviction overturned, calling the case a “strenuous period” in his life and declaring, “I very much look forward to moving beyond it.”
Bonds’ lawyer, Dennis Riordan, said that the lopsided vote to get the conviction overturned should dissuade the Justice Department from pursuing the issue further.
“It’s an absolutely extraordinary result to get an acquittal,” he said.
According to USA Today, members of the court had the conviction overturned because they felt that the prosecution did not sufficiently present their case.
“Real-life witness examinations, unlike those in movies and on television, invariably are littered with non-responsive and irrelevant answers,” Judge Alex Kozinski wrote.
One of the Bonds jurors, Jessica Wolfram, feels having the conviction overturned was a waste of the decade-long investigation and the three-week trial and four days of jury deliberation.
“(It was) all a waste, all for nothing. Just a waste of money, having the whole trial and jury,” she said.
Judge Kosinski, writing the paper for four judges and himself, felt the obstruction statute was “stretched to its limits… poses a significant hazard for everyone involved in our system of justice, because so much of what the adversary process calls for could be construed as obstruction.”
“One need not spend much time in one of our courtrooms to hear lawyers dancing around questions from the bench rather than giving pithy, direct answers” that got the conviction overturned, he wrote.
Although the Justice Department cannot retry the case, they do have the Supreme Court options, as well as asking the Appeals court to rehear the case with the 11 judges, or have all 29 Appeals judges hear the case. Since 1980, when the Appeals court started using “limited en banc” panels, the full Appeals court has never sat in on a case.
[Image courtesy of the Examiner]