Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Barry Bonds Case: A Few Observations By A Former Federal Prosecutor

                                                               [Photo from Wikipedia]
I guess all of you have read about the conviction yesterday of baseball record holder Barry Bonds.  According to various news reports, Bonds was found guilty in a federal court in San Francisco on only one count of obstruction of justice.  The jury reportedly deadlocked on the three remaining counts of perjury.
Look, you can get a lot of sports analysis all over the web about the impact of this criminal case on baseball.  But here are a couple of my own observations about the case, from my perspective as a criminal defense attorney, (and as a former federal prosecutor for over twenty years).
First of all, did you notice in the various news reports that some of the jurors hung around the courthouse, after the verdict, so that they could be interviewed by reporters about the case?  Have you also noticed that, ever since the O.J. Simpson murder trial, after every high profile trial, some jurors now seem to relish the spotlight?  Is that really a good thing about our criminal justice system? 
Also, have you noticed that, after every criminal trial, some reporters stack, or add up, the maximum potential years of imprisonment which the defendant might get?  In this case, some reporters are touting that Bonds now faces up to ten years in prison on the obstruction count.  The reality is that, in federal court, sentencing is tied to the federal sentencing guidelines and that Bonds probably faces no more that a year or so, (if that much), in prison, at worst.
Finally, here is just one more observation.  Have you noticed how many years this case took to arrive at this juncture?  And have you also realized that prosecutors, who have now spent probably many millions of tax dollars on this case, and who reportedly had begun this investigation with twenty allegations, and then had recently whittled it down to just four charges, have now ended up with just one conviction on one count?  While Bonds' defense attorneys probably shouldn't be doing a victory dance this morning, neither should the government lawyers, either, in my opinion!
What do you think? 

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