The verdict in the Barry Bonds perjury trial came in on Wednesday afternoon. While indifference is certainly one reasonable reaction, another is downright confusion.
A jury could not reach a verdict on three perjury counts against Bonds, related to his testimony from 2003 about his steroid use. That testimony was part of a grand jury probe into the operations of the Bay Area Labroatory Co-Operative (BALCO), which distributed performance enhancing drugs to athletes. Bonds admitted to using undetectable steroids, but that he thought they were flaxseed oil and an arthritis cream.
(More on TIME.com: See the evolution of Barry Bonds)
So the judge declared a mistrial on those counts. However, the jury did find Bonds guilty on an obstruction of justice count, which, according to the indictment, says that Bonds “did corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice, by knowingly giving Grand Jury testimony that was intentionally evasive, false, and misleading.”
So the same jury that couldn’t figure out if Bonds was lying, convicted Bonds of lying. What should we make of this? “It looks like the jury came to the conclusion that the obstruction count was a less serious charge,” Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, a criminal defense attorney at White & Case, and a former federal prosecutor in California, tells Newsfeed. “It was a charge that the jury could find common ground on. Juries are no different from Congress. They are urged to reach agreements, and they compromise. And a lot of times, that leads to inconsistencies. It was the best they could do.”
(More on TIME.com: Has drug probing gone too far?)
In all, this verdict sounds like a limited win for Bonds. Bottom line: he wasn’t found guilty on three out of four counts. And those three counts – perjury – would do the most damage, both to Bonds’ reputation, and his potential sentence. It’s like they nailed Bonds on the throwaway charge. Though obstruction carries a potential 10-year prison term, Bonds is not expected to get anything more than probation.
And what did the government really gain here? Yes, it can claim it scored a conviction. But after a drawn-out investigation that cost millions, the prosecution still went one-for-four. The government can retry the three perjury counts, but at this point, it shouldn’t. America is pretty over Barry Bonds. Why spend another cent on him?
(More on TIME.com: Why Steroid Trials Are a Waste)