Perjury, Obstruction, and Barry Bonds’ Conviction


Last month, an article in the National Law Journal asked a question that has been on the minds of many: “Did Barry Bonds really obstruct justice?”

In April a jury convicted baseball legend Barry Bonds on one count of obstruction of justice based on the testimony he provided before a federal grand jury investigating the use of illegal steroids in professional sports. The jury, however, could not reach a unanimous verdict on three other counts of perjury alleging that Bonds made false statements when testifying before the grand jury.

The inconsistency of the jury’s verdicts is somewhat astounding given that obstruction of justice means providing intentionally evasive, false, or misleading testimony. As the National Law Journal reported, it is not unusual for a defendant to be charged with both perjury and obstruction of justice in the same indictment. However, the real question here is: If the jury could not find unanimously that Bonds had made false statements to the grand jury, how did it convict him on an obstruction count that requires it to find, among other things, that Bonds knowingly made false statements?

Bonds’ obstruction of justice conviction was predicated on a non-responsive answer that he provided during his grand jury testimony, referred to as “Statement C.” Statement C was provided in response to the following question posed by the prosecutor:

Q: Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?

Bonds answered as follows:

A: I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t—we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want—don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends, you come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?

After all the hype about Bonds lying to the grand jury about his alleged steroid use, his conviction was ultimately based on a statement that had nothing to do with steroid use at all. Simply put, Bonds is now a convicted felon all because he said that he was a celebrity child who did not like to get involved in anyone else’s business. How exactly could the above statements be said to have impeded the grand jury investigation?

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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