A lot of people were surprised yesterday when Barry Bonds' perjury trial defense team rested its case without calling any witnesses.
There's a lot of speculation as to why this decision was made--I even chimed in over on FindLaw.com's Tarnished Twenty, highlighting potential strategic rationales.
But the fact of the matter is that the Barry Bonds trial is a criminal prosecution, placing the burden of proof on the prosecution. This means that if Barry Bonds' defense team didn't want to call any witnesses, it didn't have to.
Civil and criminal trials place the burden of proof on different parties, also requiring them to meet different standards.
In order to get a criminal conviction, the government must present sufficient evidence from which a jury can conclude a defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is mandated by the 5th Amendment.
Some courts tell jurors that the reasonable doubt standard is met when evidence is convincing such that a reasonable person would not hesitate to act upon it in important situations. Others tell them that it is not met if they would be uncomfortable with a criminal conviction.
Though it might be a wise idea, a defendant has no duty to aid the prosecution in meeting its burden of proof, or even to show that evidence is false or questionable. He must merely show up in court and let the prosecution present its case.
At this point, it's pretty clear that Barry Bonds' attorneys felt that the prosecution did not meet its burden of proof. Otherwise it would have spent some time discounting the evidence presented.
- Bonds's Lawyers Rest Their Case Without Calling Witnesses (Bloomberg)
- The Differences between a Criminal Case and a Civil Case (FindLaw)
- Trial (FindLaw)
- Barry Bonds Perjury: Lying Under Oath is a Crime (FindLaw Blotter)