On Wednesday, April 22, Barry Bonds only conviction in a performance-enhancing drug case going back to 2003 was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, according to a recent news article at the New York Times. Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2011 after he gave what was called a “rambling, non-responsive answer to a simple question” during a grand jury proceeding. The point in question was whether Bonds had used performance-enhancing drugs during his baseball career, an allegation that has been made against several athletes including Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire.
According to the article, Bonds was put at the center of baseball’s doping debate because of his involvement in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative scandal. While he never failed a performance-enhancing drug test for the use of steroids administered by Major League Baseball since the testing began in 2003, he was thought to be guilty by a large majority of the public. This public opinion was spurred mostly by books and news media reports that made “strong cases” that Bonds had used steroid drugs to enhance his performance on the field, although he has never admitted to it.
Ultimately, all efforts to link Bonds legally to the sports’ doping saga have failed. The opinion of the appeals court stated that “Because there is insufficient evidence that Statement C (the “rambling, non-responsive answer” mentioned above) was material, defendant’s conviction for obstruction of justice in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1503 is not supported by the record. Whatever section 1503’s scope may be in other circumstances, defendant’s conviction here must be reversed.”
Dennis Riordan, Bonds’ appellate attorney, said in a statement to the AP that his client said an enormous weight had been lifted from his body and his soul.
Obstruction of justice is a very serious charge, however a conviction for any criminal offense may be reversed or overturned given the facts of the case and whether errors were made. The criminal justice system must be one of fairness; when a defendant’s legal rights are violated or mistakes are made by prosecutors, judges, jurors, or others involved in the system, it may be advantageous to challenge a conviction. However, it is important to note that winning an appeal is hard-fought and never an easy process.
If you have been wrongfully convicted or feel your rights were violated, errors made at trial, or that your defense attorney was inadequate or ineffective, consult with a Michigan criminal appeals attorney who is experienced and capable with a proven track record in arguing appeals.