Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why lawyers get a bad rap

This is the tape that prosecutors have of a conversation between Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' former trainer, and Steve Hoskins, his business partner:
"But the whole thing is, everything I've been doing at this point, it's all undetectable. See, the stuff that I have, we created it. And you can't buy it anywhere. You can't get it anywhere else. But you can take it the day of and pee. And it comes up with nothing . . . [It's] the same stuff that worked at the Olympics [with Marion Jones]."
Bad, no?  To an untrained mind, it might even be incriminating.  But as Michael McCann explains, the road to convicting Bonds for perjury is hardly clear.   For one, the tape was obtained by Hoskins after secretly recording his conversation with Anderson.  Andderson will not testify in the trial, even under threat of contempt, thus rendering the tape inadmissible hearsay.  To which prosecutors will argue that the tape falls under an exception to the hearsay rule, for statements against interest of a witness who is not available to testify.

Whichever way the court rules on this technical question of law (dare we call it a technicality?), McCann explains how Bonds may still beat the charge against him.  For example, Bonds could question the authenticity of the tape or the remarks themselves; he could argue he had no knowledge of the conversation; and he could also rely on the old chestnut, "what do you mean by 'steroid'?"

I suspect it will be hard for non-lawyers to read this piece by McCann and not come away with a negative impression of lawyers and their tactics.  The court of public opinion appears to have decided this matter long ago, and the piece itself spends no time at all on whether Bonds did or did not commit perjury, or whether he did or did not take steroids.  I also know that trials are not about finding truth but beating presumptions and meeting burdens.  But tell that to Joe Q. Public and Sports Illustrated's readership.  They are McCann's audience, and they care little for the tools of the lawyer trade.

This raises two questions: why is McCann writing this piece, for this audience?  All I can think of is that he is writing it for his editors at Sports Illustrated, in case they need further evidence of his bona fides. And could anybody possibly read this piece and feel anything but contempt for the legal profession?

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