- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Barry Bonds finally sat across the court room Monday from the 12 people who will judge whether or not the greatest home-run hitter of all time lied about taking drugs.

Following a daylong selection process, eight women and four men were picked to hear the federal government’s case against the 46-year-old former San Francisco Giants star, who is charged with four counts of lying to a grand jury and one count of obstruction for testifying in 2003 that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

Among the jurors there was no shortage of opinion on baseball’s Steroids Era or drugs in sports, though all indicated they could rule impartially in the case of Bonds, who holds the records for home runs in a career (762) and a season (73).

Juror No. 69 was angered Congress investigated steroids in sports “on my dime.”

“They should be solving things like the national debt,” he said.

He made it onto the panel, even though he said Bonds had “probably not (received) a fair trial in the court of public opinion.”

Jurors were identified by number rather than name, and U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said their identities won’t be revealed until the day after the verdict.

“We got a fair and impartial jury selected after an open process,” said Bonds‘ lead lawyer, Allen Ruby, said outside the courthouse.

From the initial pool of potential jurors who filled out 19-page questionnaires last week, Illston dismissed 38 based on answers, which included whether they had attended Giants games in the last five years, and whether they were familiar with the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball or congressional hearings into steroids use. Several were dismissed because they said they had formed opinions on the case.

Another was dropped because of the death of a grandmother last weekend, and two more because they said jury duty would be a hardship. Illston denied three other hardship requests.

Thirty-six underwent 70 minutes of questioning from Illston in the morning, and another hour from prosecutors and defense lawyers in the afternoon. After a break, Illston’s clerk read the numbers of the chosen 12 and two alternates _ down from the four originally intended. Two jurors, both women, are black and 10 are white in a case that could see race become an issue.

Juror No. 24, an Air Force veteran who was not selected, brought it up under questioning. “I pretty much think he was singled out because of his race,” the man said.

Juror No. 56, one of the black women selected, said for baseball and the NFL the “commissioner’s office should deal with” steroids. “I think it’s up to them and not the government to be involved,” she said.

Bonds, who in his playing days relaxed by leaning back in his black, leather recliner in the corner of the Giants clubhouse, was attired in a dark suit, white shirt and silver tie and sat in a brown swivel chair about 20 feet from the judge on the 19th floor of the Phillip Burton Federal Building. Bonds spent most of the day speaking quietly with his lawyers and looking at the jurors as they answered questions.

A short distance away at the prosecution table, his back to Bonds, was Jeff Novitzky, the federal agent who has pursued athletes over drug allegations for eight years with dogged intensity. Bonds is the biggest star to face trial because of his efforts.

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