A jury of eight women and four men was selected Monday to hear the perjury trial of Barry Bonds, former San Francisco Giants slugger and baseball’s reigning home run champion.
Federal judge Susan Illston spent only one day to choose the jury that will weigh the evidence against Bonds, who is accused of lying under oath in 2003 to the grand jury that investigated the BALCO sports steroids scandal.
Bonds testified he had never knowingly used banned drugs. He has pleaded not guilty to five felony charges – four of perjury, or lying under oath, and one of obstruction of justice.
The jury, selected from about 100 Bay Area panelists, includes a woman who likes to wear her souvenir Oakland Athletics jersey to A’s games, two African American panelists and a retiree who said he thought the congressional hearing on steroids in sports was a waste of money.
The judge, worried about possible harassment, is keeping jurors’ names a secret until the end of the trial, identifying them in court only by jury numbers.
Few baseball fans made the final cut.
At mid-afternoon, when prosecutor Matthew Parrella asked Giant fans among approximately 50 prospective jurors to identify themselves, only six hands went up.
Testimony in what is expected to be a hard-fought trial was to begin in San Francisco today after dueling opening statements: first by Parrella, the lead prosecutor, and then by Allen Ruby, leader of Bonds' defense team.
After that Judge Illston said she would hold one more hearing for Greg Anderson, Bonds’ weight trainer, who has already served more than a year in federal prison because he has refused to cooperate with the government probe of Bonds.
Prosecutors have subpoenaed Anderson as a trial witness, saying they want to question him about the array of steroids they say he provided to Bonds during the years when the Giants star was zeroing in on the home run record.
But Anderson, who pleaded guilty to steroid dealing in the BALCO case, has said he will not ever testify about Bonds.
If he follows through, the judge has said she will again rule Anderson is guilty of contempt of court and put him back in federal prison for the duration of the trial.
After that final hearing, the prosecution will likely begin its case with testimony from federal drug agent Jeff Novitzky, who has spearheaded the investigation into steroid dealing in sports sine Burlingame’s Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative was targeted in 2002.
Bonds, dressed in a dark suit and tie, watched intently throughout the fast-moving jury selection process. He never spoke. But in the afternoon he was introduced to panelists by defense lawyer Cristina Arguedas, who said, “I am one of the lawyers for Barry Bonds – this is Barry Bonds.”
At that point Bonds stood and waved a greeting at the jury with a forefinger extended.
Judge Illston did most of the questioning of panelists. Quickly, 38 were dismissed for hardship or legal cause. Then the contending lawyers were given one hour between them to ask their own questions of the panel.
The prosecution sought to screen out panelists who were hostile to the idea of the government targeting athletes for lying about steroids, or who thought the San Francisco Giants, winners of last year’s World Series, were somehow on trial in the case. Parrella asked whether panelists thought it was wrong for the government to be involved in policing steroids in sports.
That prompted one panelist, a grandfather from Livermore, to say he objected to Congress’ high-profile hearings on steroids in sports.
“The government shouldn’t be involved because they’re working on my dime,” he said. “I feel they have more important things to do. ... (Congress) should be solving the national debt."
But he said he had no objection to the government prosecuting perjury cases, and in the end he remained on the jury.
The defense wanted to identify panelists who had read extensively about Bonds and drugs. Defense lawyer Arguedas said the case was being tried in “the age of Google,” and about half of the panel agreed that they had heard something about it before coming to court.
It’s unavoidable, one panelist said: “I was in the grocery store yesterday and the two people in front of me were talking about it,” he said.
The female jurors who were finally selected include: a nurse’s assistant from Berkeley; a staffer in a program for developmentally disabled adults from Martinez; a hospital worker from Antioch; a Mill Valley resident who works in an investment firm in San Francisco; a single woman from Boyes Hot Springs, Sonoma County, who said she likes to watch sports on TV; a Brentwood nurse; a San Francisco woman who hopes to get a master’s degree in special education; and a Pinole student who is an Oakland A’s fan.
Male jurors included: an Antioch man who works for a data processing firm; a Marin City man who manages a charity; a Concord retiree; and the Livermore grandfather, who does temporary warehouse work.