WASHINGTON — An overwhelmingly female jury with little interest in baseball will decide whether former pitching star Roger Clemens lied to Congress when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
The jurors who took their seats Tuesday include a woman whose cousin, former outfielder Al Bumbry, was a coach for the Boston Red Sox when Clemens played for the team, although she didn’t know about the connection to the defendant. Another woman on the jury said she believes Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was “done wrong” in his criminal conviction in connection with dog fighting.
The jury took shape after four days of questioning by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton and lawyers for both sides. Clemens’ defense team said the seven-time Cy Young Award winner will begin his defense by questioning the propriety of lawmakers’ investigation into whether Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. Opening arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.
Both sides seemed to want to start with a blank slate and rejected jurors who had heard much about the case or Clemens himself. When the Eagles fan said during questioning that she didn’t know a thing about baseball, Clemens’ attorney Rusty Hardin responded, “That’s a plus.”
The jury includes a 22-year-old aspiring fashion designer who works two part-time jobs and cares for her young daughter and an older woman who said her three-times-a-week dialysis treatments will not keep her from attending the trial.
Another juror is a yoga teacher and lawyer who said she finds U.S. drug laws “a bit heavy-handed.”
The two sides threw out the maximum number of 20 people before the jury of 10 women and two men along with four alternates were seated. The jurors themselves were not told who among them are alternates but they were told to avoid news and sports programs. To keep the panel from encountering the dozens of journalists at the courthouse, the judge told them they will meet off site each day, ride a bus to a back entrance and use nonpublic corridors. They will be served breakfast and lunch in what was once a judge’s chambers so they don’t have to use the cafeteria where reporters, attorneys and Clemens himself take their meals.
Clemens sat and watched final jury selection but didn’t weigh in and left it to his lawyers to pick who will decide his fate. His wife, Debbie, was back home in Houston with their sons after being in court last week, Hardin said. She will be a witness in her husband’s defense and will not be allowed to attend the trial until after she testifies, a fact Hardin explained to jurors who migh t otherwise wonder where she was.
Clemens’ attorney Michael Attanasio revealed Tuesday that Clemens plans to begin his defense by questioning if lawmakers’ investigation into whether he used performance-enhancing drugs was proper.
Attanasio said the hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February 2008 had nothing to do with Congress’ responsibility for legislation. He said the hearing was only concerned with airing a “credibility contest” between Clemens and his longtime trainer, Brian McNamee, who said he injected the pitcher with steroids and human growth hormone.
Clemens denied those allegations and has been charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress. The obstruction count charges Clemens with making 15 false or misleading statements to the committee, including his repeated denials he didn’t take performance-enhancing drugs during his 24-season career and even whether he attended a 1998 pool party at Toronto Blue Jays team mate Jose Canseco’s home in Miami.
McNamee says he saw Clemens and admitted steroids user Canseco off talking at the party with another man and that after they returned to Canada Clemens asked McNamee to inject him with steroids for the first time. Clemens and Canseco say Clemens was never at the party but was golfing at the time. Attanasio said that dispute suggests how improper the whole inquiry was and that jurors shou ld be able to determine whether a “he said, he said debate” between Clemens and McNamee was a legitimate congressional concern.
“We’re going to have a minitrial on whether Roger Clemens went swimming at Mr. Canseco’s house,” Attanasio said. “We’re going to have a trial in U.S. District Court, Congress is going to have a hearing on these things? That’s our point.”
Assistant U.S. attorney Daniel Butler responded that the committee has responsibility for oversight that is broad and goes beyond legislation. He said steroids in baseball is a drug matter and pointed out that a 2005 hearing into the issue led to legislation to regulate steroids and triggered Major League Baseball to commission a report by former Sen. George Mitchell into the extent of t he problem in the league.
The Mitchell report was released in December 2007 and named Clemens and 85 other current and former ballplayers as using drugs. Clemens denied the allegations and Butler pointed out that leaders of the House committee said they needed to investigate Clemens’ denials to determine what weight to give the Mitchell report and its recommendations.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said if “one of the icons of baseball” was taking exception to the Mitchell Report, “it seems to me that Congress has the authority to hold hearings to determine which view is correct.”
Attanasio said the issue will be addressed in testimony from the first two witnesses prosecutors plan to call after opening arguments Wednesday morning. He said the first will be retired House Parliamentarian Charles Johnson, followed by Phil Barnett, who was chief counsel for the committee at the time it investigated Clemens.
Walton also said he was upset to read a New York Daily News item that members of Clemens’ family have been criticizing McNamee and other government witnesses on Twitter and elsewhere online. The judge has a gag order on parties involved in the case, but he said he doesn’t have any authority over anyone who isn’t before him and hopes that those that are were not involved. Clemens’ attorne y Rusty Hardin said he would look into it but that it’s been “extremely difficult” for Clemens’ family to see harsh criticisms of the baseball star online and in the media and not be able to respond.