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Barry Bonds Appeal: Swinging for the Fences with Obstruction Theory?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Is obstruction of justice an “invented legal theory” that doesn’t rise to the level of criminal conduct?

That’s the argument on deck in the Barry Bonds appeal; whether or not it’s a home run is up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Plenty of defendants have been convicted of obstruction of justice, so why would Bonds' attorneys think they could win by challenging the charge as a non-crime?

Because -- to put it in baseball terms -- obstruction of justice is like walking to first; it's just lame.

A prosecutorial grand slam in the Barry Bonds trial would have been a perjury conviction. Bonds was on trial for lying about his steroid usage to the grand jury.

The grand jury said that the former San Francisco Giant impeded justice by providing evasive answers to questions about whether Greg Anderson, his former personal trainer, supplied or injected him with steroids. One of Bonds's evasive answers was that he was a "celebrity child with a famous father," reports the San Jose Mercury News. The grand jury clearly did not find his answers relevant -- or funny -- and indicted Bonds on the obstruction of justice charge, specifically stating that he obstructed justice by being "intentionally evasive, false and misleading" in his testimony.

The trial jury, however, deadlocked on the perjury counts, instead convicting Bonds of obstruction of justice.

Bonds asked U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to set aside the conviction after trial. Judge Illston rejected the request, noting that Bonds "repeatedly provided nonresponsive answers to questions about whether Anderson had ever provided him with injectables," the Mercury News reports. Bonds was sentenced to two years' probation and a month of electronic monitoring.

Our friends at FindLaw's Tarnished Twenty have marveled at the fact that the trial jury could find that Bonds was "evasive, false and misleading" in front of the grand jury, but couldn't agree that he committed perjury. What do you think? Was obstruction of justice just a trumped-up, fall back charge? Will that make a difference in Barry Bonds' appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals?

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