Barry Bonds Found Guilty Of 1 Count In Steroids Case

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Baseball slugger Barry Bonds has been found guilty of obstruction of justice. The jury failed to reach a verdict on three other counts that the home run king lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he specifically denied that he knowingly used steroids and human growth hormone.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Barry Bonds did not strike out yesterday, but he didn't get a walk either. A jury could not agree on the most serious charges against one of the greatest baseball players of recent decades, perhaps all time. They did not convict Bonds of lying in sworn testimony about his drug use. But the jury did convict him of obstructing justice with evasive and misleading testimony. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: A case that took a number of years and lots of dollars to get to trial, we expect it to end with a trumpet blast. But those expectations that Barry Bonds would be slapped down or exonerated became a little bit of both, like someone stuffed a mute inside the trumpet. The partial verdict by a jury unanimous on one count and divided on three others prompted reactions that could best be described as partial.

The prosecution highlighted the part it claimed as victory. A written statement said: We are gratified by the guilty verdict on the obstruction of justice count. This case is about upholding one of the most fundamental principles in our system of justice the obligation of every witness to provide truthful and direct testimony in judicial proceedings.

Bonds' defense team focused on the part it put in the win column the three counts that were dismissed, counts that were considered the heart of the case against Bonds, that he allegedly lied to the 2003 grand jury when he said he never knowingly took banned drugs. Here's Bonds' lawyer, Chris Arguedas.

Ms. CHRIS ARGUEDAS (Attorney): We're very gratified that after a long deliberation and 25 witnesses, our client was not convicted of anything that had to do with performance enhancing drugs or steroids or human growth hormone or injections.

GOLDMAN: That doesn't mean Bonds was not linked to drugs. He and his lawyers admitted he used. But the case was about whether he knew they were banned drugs when he got them from his former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, and took them. Fred Jacob was the jury foreman.

Mr. FRED JACOB (Jury foreman): So you had to put steroids, Greg Anderson and Barry Bonds all together with the evidence presented to us. And that didn't happen.

GOLDMAN: The prosecution, of course, didn't have Greg Anderson to testify. He refused and was sent to jail. The government also was denied a good deal of evidence that presiding Judge Susan Illston tossed before the trial began.

So objective observers, if they exist with this case, credit the government for at least getting one conviction. And prosecutors almost got another.

After the jury asked to re-hear testimony by a woman who said she saw Anderson inject Bonds, the panel was unanimous - 12-to-0 - that Bonds was guilty of lying on count two where he said no one other than his doctors ever injected him. Juror Steve - he didn't want to use his last name - says after they took that unanimous vote, they left for the day.

STEVE: And we said let's go home. We'll sleep on it. We need to do more deliberation on other counts. We came back and one of the jurors changed their mind.

GOLDMAN: So it was 11-to-1, but close doesn't count a fact that frustrated juror Amber Reed.

Ms. AMBER REED (Juror): I was definitely, you know, heartbroken that we couldn't bring it together.

GOLDMAN: Her job is done, but the case isn't. At a May 20th hearing, the defense plans to file papers asking that the guilty verdict be set aside. Because the process is ongoing, defense attorneys have asked Barry Bonds to maintain, quote, "his dignified silence."

Bonds broke that silence briefly yesterday. Outside the court, after the partial verdict, a supporter asked Bonds, are you celebrating tonight? His response, pretty apt for the day: There's nothing to celebrate.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, San Francisco.

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