Picking jury without a Clemens bias was a cinch

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER,Associated Press Updated at 2012-04-24 07:00:20 +0000


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a city that went 33 years without a major league baseball team, picking a jury without bias toward — or even much awareness of — Roger Clemens proved to be a cinch.

But between other delays and a swirl of complicated arguments over evidence, it was late Monday before the jurors heard prosecutor Steven Durham open his case by depicting Clemens as a man who told lies and "other lies to cover up lies."

Most of the jurors selected for Clemens' perjury retrial Monday were not baseball fans; seven said they had never heard of him, and one that had couldn't identify what position the seven-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher played. Although he was among the most accomplished pitchers in baseball history, his 24-year career overlapped only three years of Washington baseball — 2005 to 2007— and he pitched only one regular season game in Washington, on July 22, 2007, for the Houston Astros.

A bigger challenge was finding a jury that didn't question the value and purpose of a 2008 congressional hearing at which Clemens is accused of lying, when he said he never used steroids or human growth hormone. In fact, two people who expressed reservations about the hearings did make it onto the jury of 12 jurors and four alternates.

Last year's mistrial was called after the government showed the jury a snippet of videotaped evidence that had been ruled inadmissible. Even though this is retrial, it's moving more slowly than the original, with even more disputes.

There were numerous issues that the two sides fussed over Monday, following motions filed Friday afternoon, Friday night and Sunday afternoon. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who had complained earlier in the day about having to spend his Sunday night reading a government motion, got so exasperated as the clock passed 5 p.m. Monday that he admonished both sides for making their cases too complicated for a jury to understand.

"Keep it simple. ... Boom! Move on," he said, and then adjourned for the day as he abruptly left the bench, eliciting laughter in the courtroom.

After nearly a week of jury selection, prosecutor Durham said Clemens' 10-year relationship with strength coach Brian McNamee became a "story of deceit and dishonesty and betrayal" because Clemens wouldn't acknowledge using steroids and human growth hormone.

"The end will show that he made his choice," Durham said, "and he was going to lie."

The case largely will hinge on the believability of two of the principal figures in the case — Clemens and McNamee. McNamee says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone; Clemens said he never used either.

The government's case suffered a blow when Walton ruled that Clemens' former teammate Andy Pettitte, a key government witness who will say he used HGH, can't say where he got it from. Pettitte is also expected to say he used HGH and had conversations with Clemens about using HGH, but the judge ruled that Pettitte can't identify McNamee as his supplier because the jury might try to connect the dots and conclude that McNamee must have also supplied Clemens. The defense successfully argued that testimony would be a case of "classic guilt by association."

Wearing a pinstriped suit, white shirt and silver-striped tie, Clemens took notes throughout the day. His wife, Debbie, made her first appearance at the trial, sitting among the spectators and getting a hug from her husband during another delay — the court waited 50 minutes for a late potential juror to show up.

Debbie Clemens remained in the courtroom for the conclusion of jury selection, but the judge ordered her — along with any other potential witnesses — to leave during opening statements. Roger Clemens' lawyer objected, saying earlier word from the judge would have saved her a lot of time and travel. But Debbie Clemens was also excluded from opening statements at last year's first trial, because she was to be a witness later for her husband. Clemens watched his wife as she walked out of the courtroom.

Among those on the jury are a Nuclear Regulatory Commission analyst who grew up down the street from a New Jersey house rented by Yankee stars Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris; a supermarket cashier; an occupational therapist who once saw a game at old Griffith Stadium; an environmental lawyer who ran track in high school; a roughly 80-year-old retired college professor who was born in Germany; and a Treasury Department official.