Barry Bonds trial verdict: first thoughts

I posted yesterday about what I had learnt so far from the Barry Bonds trial and here are my first thoughts on the outcome.

The jurors managed to find Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice, but not on three counts of perjury. In the light of my first point yesterday this is an odd outcome and has led the prosecution to call for a mistrial on the three perjury counts. Interestingly, the jury seemed convinced that Bonds was doping and obstructing justice, but not that he lied about it his doping; they were not all convinced by the witnesses’ plausibility, hence the slightly strange outcome.

Having recently sat on a jury, none of this should have surprised me: my impression having followed this trial fairly closely is that it is pretty easy to convince a jury that someone has doped on the basis of physical evidence (even in the absence of duplicate samples); harder to convince them of someone’s intentions and observed actions (to dope; to lie, etc.). In the absence of physical evidence it often comes down to how credible witnesses are: in this trial many of the prosecution witnesses provided conflicting testimony.

What do we learn?

  1. Jury trials can have odd outcomes
  2. Juries are strongly influenced by their judgments about the character, motivations and plausibility of witnesses
  3. Juries like scientific/medical evidence

We can expect some interesting things to happen if the Armstrong case finally comes to trial.

Thanks are again due to @gwenknapp, @mmmaiko, NYDNSportsITeam and @JulietMacur their twitter coverage of the trial.

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