SAN FRANCISCO —
Jurors who deadlocked on three other perjury charges said after rendering their verdict that they believed that answer was meant to mislead the grand jury. Prosecutors later dropped the perjury charges and U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced Bonds to 30 days house arrest and two years of probation, which she suspended pending the appeal.
Legal experts who have followed the case closely since his grand jury appearance in December 2003 are divided over Bonds' chances before Judges Mary Schroeder, Michael Daly Hawkins and Mary Murguia, each of whom were appointed by a different Democrat president and all of whom are based in Phoenix, home of San Francisco's division rival Diamondbacks and about a 20-minute drive from the Giants' Scottsdale spring training facility.
One set of analysts argue that appellate courts are reluctant to overturn jury verdicts absent an overwhelmingly obvious mistake. They say that the trial court judge, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, is a respected jurist who has few of her cases overturned.
"There is a definite overriding respect of a jury's verdict," said Howard Wasserman, a Florida International University law professor. "Typically, it's pretty hard to get a jury's verdict reversed."
On the other hand, there are those lawyers who argue that Bonds stands a good chance to clear his name.
"The government's biggest hurdle is that testimony obstruction cases are usually based on blatant, undeniable lies to questions at the heart of an investigation," said William Keane, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney. "Here the prosecution limps in with only a single rambling, unresponsive, unimportant answer that is literally true."
Regardless of the outcome, University of New Hampshire law professor Michael McCann contends that the case was ultimately a loss of the U.S. Department of Justice.
"The main thrust of the government's original case was that he lied when he denied taking steroids," said McCann, who also edits the popular Sports Law Blog. "That's not what he was convicted of. Obstruction was not the main charge."