Judge urged to unseal questionnaires

SAN FRANCISCO -- Media companies urged a federal judge Thursday to allow access to the completed questionnaires from potential jurors in Barry Bonds' perjury trial.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered last week that the answers provided on the forms, which are intended to root out bias in selecting a jury, should be off limits to the public. There are more than 60 questions on the forms including potential jurors' opinion of Bonds and whether they've followed the issue of steroid use in professional sports.

The forms also include a potential juror's name, age, gender, level of education, job, criminal record, religion and other personal information.

The Associated Press, ESPN, Hearst Corp., The New York Times Co., ABC-subsidiary KGO, KNTV Television Inc., NBC subsidiary KNBC-TV, The Los Angeles Times and Sports Illustrated publisher Time Inc. filed court papers seeking public access to the forms.

Media company lawyers argued that the questionnaires should be considered part of the jury-selection process, which is required to be done in open court. The lawyers noted that neither Bond's lawyers nor federal prosecutors have asked the judge to seal the documents.

"Here, there is no valid basis for keeping the public in the dark about the answers provided by prospective and trial jurors," the papers stated.

The home run king's trial begins Monday, when potential jurors throughout the Bay Area are summoned to the federal courthouse in San Francisco to fill out the forms. The slugger's lawyers, prosecutors and the judge will question them in person about their answers beginning on Tuesday.

The judge wants to seat 12 jurors and two alternates for a trial that is expected to last a month.

Bonds, who owns the major league record for career home runs with 762, is charged with 10 counts of making false statements to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say he lied under oath when he denied to a grand jury that he knowingly used steroids.