SAN FRANCISCO -- Its official designation is "Prosecution Exhibit Number 10." As the Barry Bonds perjury trial begins each morning, federal agent Jeff Novitzky brings it into the courtroom and places it on top of a cardboard box on the edge of the table he shares with prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella.
It sits prominently displayed throughout the day only a few feet from the jurors who will decide whether Bonds lied to a grand jury in December 2003 when he denied using steroids. It may be the prosecution's last, best hope of convicting Bonds.
In a trial that featured dozens of documentary exhibits, Exhibit 10 stands out. It's a large manila envelope enclosed within a gallon-size plastic baggie. The envelope and the baggie are much too large for their contents. There is little doubt that someone wanted to make sure that the jurors noticed Exhibit 10. Inside the dramatically oversized containers are three syringes and a tiny container of human growth hormone. Novitzky and a team of agents seized the HGH and the syringes in their raid on the home of Bonds trainer Greg Anderson on Sept. 3, 2003.
Prosecutors presented 25 witnesses during the trial that completed its 11th day on Wednesday, but the outcome of the case may depend on the HGH and the syringes in Exhibit 10.
As the result of Anderson's steadfast refusal to testify, a series of adverse rulings on evidence from U.S. District Judge Susan Illston and at least one major tactical blunder, the prosecutors' only serious chance for a conviction is on Count Two of the indictment.
Prosecutors asked Bonds during his appearance before the grand jury whether "anyone other than perhaps the team doctor or your personal physician has ever injected anything into you." No, Bonds replied, insisting that Anderson had never injected him with anything.
Bonds' denial of any injections by Anderson is the heart of Count Two of the indictment. The charge is that his denial was a false statement to the grand jury.
In a rare moment of success for the prosecution during the trial, the prosecutors' 22nd and best witness gave them the kind of evidence that, along with the dramatic contents of Exhibit 10, could lead to a conviction.
Kathy Hoskins, Bonds' former personal shopper and the sister of his former business manager, Steve Hoskins, testified about what she saw during the 2002 baseball season while she was helping Bonds pack for a road trip. On previous visits to Bonds' house, she said, she had seen Bonds and Anderson go into a room, close the door, and emerge together a few minutes later. But, on this particular day, Bonds and Anderson walked into the master bedroom while Hoskins was packing for Bonds.
Crying occasionally and clearly unhappy to find herself testifying against Bonds, Hoskins told the jury that when Anderson saw her in the huge bedroom, he started to leave. Bonds stopped Anderson, Hoskins testified, and told Anderson, "we'll do it right here."
When Anderson showed some concern, Bonds told him, "This is Katie. She's my girl." Anderson then prepared the injection, Hoskins told the jury, and Bonds pulled up his shirt to allow Anderson to inject Bonds in his navel.
Other witnesses had already informed the jury that HGH injections were made with a small needle known as a "subcutaneous" syringe and were injected shallowly in the skin of the navel.
Bonds explained to Hoskins, according to her testimony, that he and Anderson did the injections before each road trip to make sure that others "could not detect it and could not catch it." The needle and substance that Hoskins testified she saw Anderson using are exactly like the three syringes and the HGH that the jurors will find in their deliberation room when they open the double-bagged Exhibit 10.
Bonds attorney Cristina Arguedas, a skilled advocate, worked hard for 51 minutes in a cross-examination of Hoskins and succeeded only in enhancing Hoskins' veracity. Arguedas, who wears oversized and mismatched outfits in court, tried to question Hoskins on style. Big mistake. The jurors and the courtroom audience erupted in laughter as Hoskins defined style for Arguedas.
When Arguedas tried to suggest that Hoskins was bitter about Bonds firing her brother as his business manager, Hoskins was ready. Responding to an Arguedas suggestion that she wanted to hurt Bonds, Hoskins said, to the delight of the jurors and the audience, "I didn't run around saying, 'Where is the FBI? I know something!'"
When she told the jury that she was very unhappy about appearing in court, Hoskins was in tears. As she walked quickly from the courtroom, Bonds' mother, Pat, was also in tears. The Bonds and Hoskins families had been friends for two decades until things fell apart between Bonds and Steve Hoskins in 2003.
After the defense team rested its case on Wednesday without presenting a single witness, the Kathy Hoskins eyewitness testimony remains uncontradicted. Bonds said Anderson never injected him. Kathy Hoskins said she saw Anderson do exactly what Bonds said Anderson never did.
How will the highly skilled and talented Bonds legal team respond to the Kathy Hoskins testimony and the contents of Exhibit 10? Unless Bonds' attorneys can cobble together an argument that will somehow destroy the veracity of the trial's most interesting witness, Bonds could easily be convicted on Count Two.
The Bonds legal team, which has been thorough and meticulous in every other aspect of the trial, may wish it had done something to stop Novitzky from displaying Exhibit 10 each day within a few feet of the jurors.
Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.