1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Convict Bonds with Evidence, Not Charges

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by creamora, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. creamora

    creamora Member

    Below is a journalist who seems to understand that we have only heard one side of the BALCO story thus far. Think about it for a moment. There hasn't even been a trial, yet. However, it seems that most journalists have already convicted Bonds. Amazingly, this guy below seems to still be cognizant of the fact that we are living in America, the so-called land of the "innocent until proven guilty." What a rare breed. I was beginning to believe that this type of thinking had become extinct among sports journalists. Does Bonds even deserve a trial? I could be wrong, but it seems that the majority of sports journalists don't believe so.

    Convict Barry Bonds with Evidence, Not Charges
    Ivan Katz Sat Nov 24, 8:13 PM ET

    Yahoo! Sports

    The late Justice Lewis Powell said it best: "This Court has declared that one accused of a crime is entitled to have his guilt or innocence determined solely on the basis of the evidence introduced at trial, and not on grounds of official suspicion, indictment, continued custody, or other circumstances not adduced as proof at trial." Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 485 (1978). Although it was Justice Blackmun rather than Justice Powell who was known as the baseball fan on the U.S. Supreme Court, it is useful to remember Justice Powell's words when dealing with the case of United States of America v. Barry Lamar Bonds.

    The United States of America has charged Barry Lamar Bonds with four counts of perjury [18 U.S.C. §1623(a)] and one count of obstruction of justice [18 U.S.C. §1503]. The operative word here is "charged."

    Very few people will argue that Barry Bonds is a nice man, that he has a warm and bubbly personality, or that he serves as a model for anyone to emulate. The general impression seems to be that on a scale of one to ten (with Stalin or Hitler being a one and Mahatma Gandhi a ten), Bonds is a two. And that's from his friends.

    The presumption of innocence does not, however, exist merely to benefit people we find decent, good and admirable. They are, in fact, the people who need it least. The presumption exists to protect anyone hauled before a court to answer charges; you, me, the alleged drug dealer or child molester, and the current holder of Major League Baseball's career home run record.

    The charges detailed against Barry Lamar Bonds basically provide that he was granted immunity from prosecution on December 4, 2003 (before his testimony to a federal grand jury) and that pursuant to that immunity the right against self-incrimination was removed: So long as he testified truthfully his testimony could not be used against him. The immunity did not, of course, cover grand jury testimony that was false or which amounted to perjury. Bond was asked about certain alleged acts and he denied them.

    The government claims that these denials were examples of the "false exculpatory no" and that they were made with knowledge of their material falsity. In order to prove the perjury charges the United States must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bonds' denials were false and were made with knowledge of their falsity. It is an indictment that leaves little wiggle room: He cannot be convicted unless the government proves the "denied facts" were indeed true. Bonds and his supporters could not, following a conviction, say that conviction does not mean that he used steroids, human growth hormone or "the cream and the clear" since conviction would mean exactly that.

    I have no idea when the presumption of innocence be came a dead letter as far as the American media are concerned. The government has charged Barry Bonds with a crime and the charge is viewed as tantamount to a conviction. No one has bothered to note that the evidence in support of the government's charges has not been revealed, let alone tested by cross-examination. Bonds is not viewed - as he is entitled to be viewed - as an innocent man. And should it be proven by competent evidence adduced at trial that he is in fact innocent of these charges, this fact will not mean one blessed thing to those who have concluded that he is guilty as sin and that nothing as trivial as a verdict rendered by a jury after trial is going to convince them otherwise. This is not justice. This is Stalinism. The State says you did it, therefore you did it. And you will be punished accordingly. You say you are innocent? They all say that. If you didn't do it the State would not have said you did. That the argument is idiotic on its face does not stop a solid majority of the American people from believing it.

    According to this so-called "Court of Public Opinion", "the people", without having had the benefit of hearing any evidence whatsoever, have concluded that "he did it" and that if a jury duly sworn should conclude, after hearing the evidence, that "he didn't do it" the reason for it is "smart, well paid lawyers." One of the reasons why Authority so often goes after lawyers hammer and tong is because we do have an annoying habit of demanding that the evidence be examined and the law applied. You don't need to go very far back in history to find examples of the government prosecuting innocent men whether for decent or scurrilous motives.

    When you try, convict and sentence a man in the absence of any evidence at all (and the government's assertion by indictment that "you did it" is no evidence at all) you are relying on the wrong Lewis. Lewis Powell got it right, Lewis Carroll did not.
  2. Oz

    Oz Active Member

    Here we go again ...
  3. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Honestly, I read until the Stalin/Hitler comparison, and went no farther. This guy just lost all credibility by saying that Barry Bonds, guilty of no more than cheating to claim a sports record and lying about it, is a step above the executors of two of the worst mass murders in world history.

    Make your arguments if you want, but using something like that to justify it undercuts any leg you had to stand on.

    Edited because I realized it wasn't necessary to quote the column again.
  4. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

  5. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

  6. BYH

    BYH Active Member


    Also I think it's time for a new default Creamora icon:

  7. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    It's a pointless column. Bonds will get his day in court. Even if the screaming mobs Katz is imagining somehow managed to attempt to sidestep the constitution (and that is not happening in a high profile case), Bonds is lucky enough to be able to afford lawyers who will make sure he is able to avail himself of every possibility of proving his innocence in the face of whatever evidence and witnesses the prosecutors intend to bring.

    I'd also point out that even if Bonds is guilty, this is is really a near meaningless perjury trial that wouldn't have been brought against 99 percent of the world. (I say near meaningless, because it does send a message about honesty and truthfulness, and I believe that is meaningful. The question is whether it is worth the time and expense.)

    And regardless of this trial, which is isolated to a small issue about some statements that Bonds made on one particular day, it isn't the end-all in answering the simple kinds of questions people have always had about Barry Bonds: 1) Did he use performance-enhancing drugs? 2) When, what and how did he use, if he did? 3) What effect did it have on his ability to break the record, if he did use? 4) If he used, why won't he be honest about it, rather than lying his ass off?

    This trial may do nothing to shed light on any of those questions which have simple, unambiguous answers to them. In fact, this trial probably will do nothing to shed any light on those questions.
  8. A pointless column?
    No, you don't agree with the point, but it has one.
  9. Philosopher

    Philosopher Member

    I disagree with the implicit premise of the column, which is that the presumption of innocence (and other legal concepts) should bind the way that the media and the public views defendants like Bonds. The presumption of innocence is a legal concept which is meant to ensure that a defendant receives a fair trial. There's no good reason why this legalism should be extended to the rest of society at large.

    In fact, I think that if you can't at least concede that it's highly likely Bonds is guilty, then you're biased or not thinking very hard. As a starting point, the indictment indicates that a grand jury believes that there is a reasonable probability that Bonds committed a crime. It also means that the U.S. Attorney's Office believes that it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bonds committed a crime.

    For some charges, that might not be enough to convince most people that the defendant is guilty. But perjury, in particular, is a very straightforward crime. All the evidence one needs to be convinced that Bonds committed perjury is in the indictment itself. Bonds will not -- because he cannot -- dispute that he made the alleged statements. The only dispute could possibly be over how truthful they were, and on that count, I think it's eminently reasonable for the public and the media to read those statements and determine themselves if the evidence included in the indictment is enough to convince them that the statements were almost certainly untrue.

    The court of public opinion is not governed by legal presumptions. In this case, the evidence is so compelling and the case is so straightforward that it would be weird if the public and media weren't leaping to conclusions about Bonds.
  10. It certainly should "bind" in some way the way the media treats the case, unless we've abandoned standards entirely to the talk-show crowd.
  11. I've always understood perjury charges to be the most difficult to prove. Proving he made a false statement isn't enough. You also have to prove intent.

    I haven't read anywhere that the feds have an open-shut case here. In fact, I've read over and over that it appears to be a shaky case.

    Does most of the media think he cheated by taking steroids somehow? Probably. Anyone think the feds can prove it? Eh.
  12. zeke12

    zeke12 Guest

    WB --

    All other issues aside, the Feds don't indict without a good chance to convict. You don't keep a conviction rate like they have by indicting with weak evidence.

    Same as it was when they indicted Mike Vick or whomever else.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page