Jury selection under way in Bonds trial

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Jury selection under way in Bonds trial

March 21, 2011Editor's note: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Kate Longworth is in the courtroom and we will update this story with her dispatches throughout the day. Follow her Twitter updates here.

SAN FRANCISCO (APCSN) -- Some loved Barry Bonds so much they can't be impartial. Others already believe he's guilty. A mother worried about the effect sports doping would have on her impressionable children. And so the laborious process of selecting a jury began Monday in the criminal case of USA v. Bonds.

More than three years after the all-time home run leader was charged with lying to a grand jury when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, his trial got under way in San Francisco federal court. The judge and lawyers were attempting to winnow about 100 prospective jurors into 12 jurors and four alternates for a case that could take up to four weeks.

Bonds was present in a dark suit, with roughly six family membersfriends sitting in the front rows of court.

According to firsthand accounts from inside the courtroom, jury selection began at about 9:40 a.m. with the arrival of the 38-person (22 female, 16 male) panel. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston asked basic questions such as where jurors lived, their occupation, a brief family description, their hobbies, had they served on a jury before, among other inquiries.

A handful of jurors mentioned baseball and sports as hobby. One indicated a reluctance to render a judgment against "a great athlete like Mr. Bonds. It might cloud my judgment."

"It's hard to make decisions about other people's lives," juror No. 9 told U.S. District Illston when asked if he could be impartial.

"It's the hardest thing we do," replied the judge, who has sealed the prospective jurors' names until after the trial concludes.

"I haven't done too good with (my life)," juror No. 9 concluded before sitting back down. He remained eligible for the jury, but 42 other people in the pool were dismissed from the case before the questioning began Monday.

Illston excused one juror because of a death in a family. A second person was dismissed because of his allegiance to the San Francisco Giants.

"I'm a Barry Bonds fan and I'm a huge SF Giants fan. It's my life. I don't know if I could judge Mr. Bonds after providing me with so much entertainment. It's an intimate relationship," prospective juror No. 22 wrote on a questionnaire he filled out on Thursday. "I don't think I could find him guilty."

No. 22 identified himself as age 35 and working at Target as an "in-stock team member."

After lunch the prosecution began its questioning of potential jurors. Among the questions was about how many Giants fans were present. About six hands were raised. The follow-up: Does anyone feel that the Giants are on trial? No hands went up.

Illston also granted the request of both sides to dismiss 38 prospective jurors with perceived biases.

"My opinion is that steroids is ok to be used since these are the jobs of athletes," prospective juror No. 29 stated in is questionnaire before being dismissed. "If a player must advance in hisher jobs, supplements should be able to be used."

Illston said she expects to have just enough people to fill the jury. Most of those who remained told the judge they could stay impartial, though several with strong impressions of the case still remained in the jury pool, taking direct questions from the judge

"I would be reluctant to render a judgment against a great athlete like Bonds," juror No. 24, a single, 61-year-old man living on disability payments, told Illston. "It would color my judgment."

The judge thanked the man for his time, and he sat down to await a decision on whether he would remain on the jury.

One of the prospective jurors whom prosecutors want excused wrote on her questionnaire: "He is guilty. He lied. He has suffered enuf. There should have been some sort of settlement." The prospective juror identified herself as 61 years old and holding a law degree.

Another juror identified herself as an administrative assistant with Google Inc.

"Everyone looks up to these athletes, including young kids and its sad they take drugs to do better. What are kids learning?" the 42-year-old wrote on her questionnaire. "I have young impressionable kids and they do sports. I would be distraught if they felt they had to take drugs to do well in any arena."

Bonds, who played for San Francisco when he hit 73 homers in a season and when he broke Hank Aaron's career home-run record, has pleaded not guilty to one count of obstruction and four charges of lying to a grand jury.

When he initially entered his plea in December 2007, he was met by thousands of media, fans and others as television helicopters hovered overhead. Much of that attention was missing on Monday. About a dozen photographers milled outside, but few fans were there to see Bonds walk into the federal courthouse in San Francisco dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and silver tie.

While Bonds sat with his star-studded legal team at the defense table, Jeff Novitzky, the federal agent who led the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, joined the prosecutors. Bonds is the biggest name to go to trial from the BALCO probe.

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

Sharks' depth players, Burns, snap cold streaks just in time

SAN JOSE – For at least one night, the Sharks’ depth players – most of which have been missing in action for weeks – found the scoresheet against the Rangers in a 5-4 overtime win on Tuesday.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

The Sharks were playing their first of what will surely be at least a few games without center Logan Couture, and are still in the hunt for a Pacific Division title with four of their six remaining games against Edmonton and Calgary – teams they are trying to fend off to earn home ice in the first round. And, of course, they ended a wretched six-game losing streak in which they never had a lead in any of the defeats.

Coach Pete DeBoer mentioned earlier in the week that the coaching staff had challenged the depth players to do more, especially now that their second line center is out indefinitely. The response on Tuesday included two goals from Chris Tierney (including a late game-tying score), one goal and one assist from Jannik Hansen, a shorthanded goal by Melker Karlsson, two assists from Mikkel Boedker, and an assist from Tomas Hertl.

Consider the challenge met.

“We want to score. All the depth guys know, and talked about stepping up,” Tierney said. “It's good that we broke through tonight, especially with Logan out of the lineup. We're going to have to keep doing it throughout the playoffs."

DeBoer said the internal challenge “didn’t involve much more than just ‘Hey, we need some contributions from you.’ We can’t always look to the big guys to get the job done. We got that tonight. Those guys got on the board. It’s never a lack of effort with that group, but we’re the sum of our parts. We need those guys to get on the board for us on a regular basis and they did that tonight.”

It was also surely welcomed that one of their big guys – perhaps their biggest – got the overtime winner. Brent Burns had been mired in a 16-game drought without a goal, but his slap shot got through Henrik Lundqvist half-a-minute into an overtime power play.

While the depth guys will need to continue to produce, the Sharks are going to need more from Burns, too, as the postseason approaches. The defenseman had been kept off of the scoresheet in nine of 10 games from March 5 – 21, but now has one point in each of his last three games. That’s a good sign.

Getting a goal was particularly nice, as was ending the losing skid.

“Yeah on both accounts,” Burns said. “That was a big win, especially coming back, staying resilient, getting that big goal there at the end.”

Still, with all that went right, the game was far from perfect. The Sharks allowed a 3-1 second period lead to turn into a 4-3 deficit in just a span of five minutes and seven seconds, indicating they’re still a bit fragile. Derek Stepan made it 3-2 late in the second with a power play goal, Jesper Fast scored on a deflection early in the third, and J.T. Miller gave New York its first lead of the night less than five minutes into the final frame.

“There’s still room for improvement, definitely,” Joe Pavelski said.

Still, the Sharks fought back for Tierney’s late game-tying goal with less than two minutes in regulation, setting up Burns’ overtime heroics. 

The captain sensed some displeasure from the home fans due to the blown lead, something he surely understood, but indicated that the energy level on the Sharks’ bench was still high.

“Whether you think, like, ‘Here we go again’ or not – I’m sure someone in this building thought that tonight,” Pavelski said. “Guys just kind of stuck with it, and we believed we would tie it up tonight.”

Getting that extra point in overtime brought a sense of relief.

“When you lose six straight, it's obviously a relief when you win one,” Martin Jones said. “But win or lose, we played a lot better tonight.”

 

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

Instant Replay: Sharks rally late, stun Rangers in OT to end skid

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Sharks found a way to tie their game with the Rangers late and win it in overtime, 5-4, to end their losing streak at six games.

After New York had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, Chris Tierney knotted the score with just 2:15 left in regulation. Mikkel Boedker’s shot from high in the zone rattled around the slot, and Tierney was there to flip it home for this second of the night.

Brent Burns ended a 16-game goal drought with a power play goal at 3:10 in overtime, overpowering Henrik Lundqvist with a slap shot.

After Tierney had given San Jose a 3-1 lead earlier in the second period the Sharks kept up the pressure, recording seven of the next eight shots. But Patrick Marleau’s interference penalty on Jimmy Vesey gave New York a late power play and turned the game in their favor.

Derek Stepan – who was stopped on a partial breakaway midway through the first period – brought the Rangers back to within 3-2. Mats Zuccarello hummed a seam pass through Justin Braun to Stepan, who had an open net to deposit his 16th of the season in the final minutes of the second period.

In the third, Jesper Fast redirected a Brady Skjei floater at 1:24, tying the game at 3-3. A Burns tripping minor during four-on-four play offered a power play to the Rangers, and they capitalized on a J.T. Miller one-timer at 4:44, his second of the night.

The Sharks remain two points back of Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and are tied with Edmonton for second.

For the first time in eight games the Sharks struck first. A newly configured third line of Tomas Hertl, Boedker and Jannik Hansen scored on its first shift together, as Hansen chopped in a loose puck at 1:44. Boedker and Hertl both got assists, ending pointless streaks of 10 games and 12 games, respectively.

Hansen’s first goal as a Shark also gave the team its first lead in more than two weeks, as it never led throughout its six-game regulation losing streak.

The Rangers tied it at 13:30 of the first on a goal by Miller, who took the puck from Paul Martin along the wall and lifted a perfectly placed wrist shot over Martin Jones’ near shoulder.

Melker Karlsson, returning from an eight-game absence, put the Sharks ahead 2-1 late in the first period with a shorthanded score. He whizzed a wrist shot past countryman Lundqvist at 18:01 while on a two-on-one with Tierney.

Tierney increased the lead to 3-1 in the middle frame, taking a shot from the slot and following up his own rebound at 11:38. It was just his second goal in the last 22 games, and eighth of the year.

The Rangers won the only other game of the season series back on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden, 7-4. The Sharks finished the season with a 21-7-4 mark against Eastern Conference clubs.

The Sharks were without Logan Couture, who is out indefinitely with a facial injury.

Special teams:
Two of New York’s goals came on the power play, on three opportunities. The Sharks are 11-for-15 on the PK in the last six games.

San Jose had just one power play before overtime, failing to score. Karlsson’s marker was his second shorthanded score of the season, and the Sharks’ seventh as a team.

In goal:
After allowing a career high seven goals-against on Saturday in Nashville, Jones made 24 saves on 28 shots.

Lundqvist suffered the loss with 30 saves on 35 shots.

Lineup:
Micheal Haley served a one-game suspension for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday.

Tierney (upper body) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (flu) both returned after missing Saturday’s game with the Predators. Marcus Sorensen came out of the lineup for Kevin Labanc, who was recalled on Tuesday morning and skated on the top line.

New York’s Skjei had three assists.

Up next:
The Sharks have six games remaining in the regular season – two each against Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

A three-game road trip against each of those division rivals begins on Thursday with the Oilers, as the clubs battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and continues on Friday against the Flames and Sunday versus the Canucks.