United States v. Bonds

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 04-22-2015
  • Case #: 11-10669
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Kozinski, Smith, Reinhardt, Fletcher, Rawlinson, O’Scannlain, Graber, Wardlaw, Callahan, Nguyen, Friedland; Concurrence by Kozinski; Concurrence by Smith; Concurrence by Reinhardt; Concurrence by Fletcher; Dissent by Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

A single, non-responsive answer by a grand jury witness cannot support a conviction for obstruction of justice.

Barry Bonds appealed the jury’s conviction for one count of obstruction of justice. The conviction was based off of six unresponsive answers Bonds gave during his three-hour grand jury testimony when he was suspected of steroid use. In response to the question of whether his trainer had given Bonds “anything that required a syringe,” Bonds rambled on about his friendship with his trainer and the difficulties of being a “celebrity child.” On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined that Bonds’s statement on its own, and when considered in relation to the whole record, was not material enough “to divert the government from its investigation or [to] influence the grand jury’s decision.” The panel reasoned that since Bonds’s answer did not confirm or deny any fact posed in the prosecution’s question, it was, therefore, simply a harmless waste of time. REVERSED.

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