Judge throws out voicemail messages in Bonds' case

March 17, 2011 6:58:44 PM PDT
The perjury trial of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is set to begin Monday. On Thursday 50 potential jurors reported to court to fill out questionnaires about the case as the judge dealt another blow to the prosecution on what evidence those jurors will see.

Bonds' defense lawyers scored a win Thursday, when the judge denied prosecutors' request to use 11 voicemail messages Bonds left for his former girlfriend Kimberley Bell during their nine-year relationship. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston called them "At most, very marginal in terms of any relevance."

"They're tapes, there's no foundation for them. Nobody, I think, has even seriously argued that they're evidence of anything that has anything to do with this case and maybe it's about time to get to what the evidence is or isn't," said Allen Ruby, Bonds' lead defense attorney.

Prosecutors argued the tapes are evidence of a growing steroid-induced rage. In one, he says: "Yo, Kim. I'm starting to get upset, very upset. Where in the "blank" are you?" In others, he allegedly called Bell some derogatory comments.

"That's an argument and one reason we're glad the trial is going to start is we're able to move now from arguments and theories, to evidence," said Ruby.

Thursday, a pool of 50 prospective jurors came to court to fill out questionnaires. Those jurors will return on Monday for in-person questioning by the lawyers on both sides. The 60 questions had some very specific questions like: "Are you a baseball fan?"

"They will be asking 'What is your opinion of Barry Bonds?' If someone says, 'Barry Bonds is the greatest superhero of all time,' then he is off the jury. If someone says, 'I hate Barry Bonds. He ruined baseball,' - he's off the jury," said ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson.

The questionnaire has familiar questions like those on connections to law enforcement and where they get their news and then there's question No. 46 about whether government should be involved in regulating steroid use in professional sports.

Johnson also said that's the prosecution's effort to weed out people who don't care whether or not Bonds lied.

"There are a lot of people out there who believe given the government's financial situation we shouldn't be spending tens of millions of dollars to get involved in professional sports and their regulation of steroid use," said Johnson.

Bonds is on trial for three counts of perjury and one of obstructing justice, accused of lying to a 2003 federal grand jury about knowingly using performance enhancing drugs.

Jury consultants said that the lawyers in this case could be looking at their personal Facebook and Twitter pages to see who they like and who they follow; it's all public domain and fair game. Once a jury is selected, they'll be prohibited from checking the internet, checking their Facebook and Twitter pages, watching TV and reading the newspapers.

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