SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- A panel of four older men and eight relatively younger women will decide the fate of baseball legend Barry Bonds, who is accused of lying about his alleged steroid use before a federal grand jury during the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative steroids inquiry.
The jury impaneled on Monday consists of a nurse from Brentwood, Calif., a full-time student, a retiree and a Vietnam veteran who flew helicopters for the Air Force. Two alternate jurors were selected, bringing the full jury count to 14, although 16 was the original estimate.
Of the 12 selected jurors, the majority are white and single with no children. Two of the male jurors are married fathers, and a third is a widower. The fourth male juror, who is the only member of the panel residing in San Francisco, said he lives with a partner.
Two of the female jurors are black. One is a nurse; the other is a nurse's assistant.Bonds' attorneys argued during questioning that the case against their client has already been tried in the court of public opinion, and questioned whether the jury candidates would be able to disregard outside influences to focus on the evidence presented during the scheduled four-week perjury trial.
"There are very few people here who are not a blank slate on this case," said Cristina Arguedas, one of Bonds' defense lawyers. "This case is getting a lot of attention, warranted or not." She also introduced Bonds, who stood and waved, smiling.
One jury candidate said it would be "impossible" to avoid coming across coverage of the case. "I was in the grocery store and that's all two people in front of me were talking about it," he said. "I couldn't just leave the store, because I had ice cream and milk." He said it was "doable," however, to ignore what he had heard and focus on the evidence. The man was eventually dismissed.
The Latino male jury candidate who said earlier that he would be reluctant to pass judgment on "a great athlete like Barry Bonds" told Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella that he believed Bonds was "singled out because of his race." He added: "It seems there were other players who used steroids and were not accused of anything." He, too, was not called to serve on the jury.
Another potential juror, who was also not selected, had a strong opinion about whether Congress should have investigated steroid use in professional sports. "Congress should not have gotten involved in this," he said. "They're working on my dime, and I feel they have more important things to do than waste their time on that. They should be solving things like the national debt."
The Berkeley nurse also said she felt steroid investigations belonged with the baseball commission. "It's up to them and not the government," she told Parrella.
One juror not selected said he felt using steroids amounted to cheating. "If you take steroids you seem to have an advantage over other players," he said. "It seems unfair." Another said she was the mother of an adult son, and "it's an uphill battle to try not to make starts become his hero because of the drug abuse and general behavior, and I get tired of it."
While none of the prospective jurors said they would be unable to remain impartial given the mostly negative publicity Barry Bonds has received, many were distrustful of media coverage of the case and some had a low opinion of the media in general. When asked by defense attorney Allen Ruby whether they thought coverage of Bonds in the past had been accurate, no one raised their hands. One potential juror said: "What you read in the paper is a lot of times speculation or opinion, so it's hard to get a fair trial in the court of public opinion."
When asked by Parrella if Bonds was singled out in the media during the steroids investigations, one prospective juror said she avoided reading news reports about the case. "I did not believe the newspapers would get everything correct," she said. "I don't think newspapers are the pinnacle of correctness."
"I agree," Parrella said, to laughter throughout the court.
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, with each side schedule for one hour of opening argument. Bonds' former trainer Greg Anderson is also supposed to testify, and, while he has refused to do so, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston told Parrella to make sure Anderson was in court by 11:00 a.m.