WASHINGTON — The complexity of the Roger Clemens perjury retrial showed itself in many ways Monday — before a jury that knows little about baseball.
The prosecutor’s hour-long opening statement was a rambling hodgepodge of dates and anecdotes that attempted to portray the seven-time Cy Award winner as a man who told lies and “other lies to cover up lies.” A ruling was issued about Clemens’ former teammate Andy Pettitte: He can testify about taking human growth hormone, but can’t say where he got it from.
In between, there were numerous motions as attorneys for both sides fussed over which words and facts can be used and which ones can’t. Finally, as the clock passed 5 p.m., an impatient U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton admonished both sides for making their cases too complicated for a jury to understand.
“Keep it simple. … Boom! Move on,” said Walton, who then declared the slow-moving trial adjourned for the day as he abruptly left the bench. The opening defense statement was put off until Tuesday.
On the fifth day of the trial, the court finally seated 12 jurors and four alternates. The 10 women and six men mostly said they didn’t follow baseball or know much about Clemens. In fact, seven said they’d never heard of him.
Their first task was to try to digest prosecutor Steven Durham’s description of Clemens’ 10-year relationship with athletic trainer Brian McNamee, which Durham said 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.”
Clemens is accused of lying — when he said he never used steroids or HGH during his 24-season career — at a 2008 congressional hearing and at a deposition that preceded it. Last year’s mistrial was called after the government showed the jury a portion of videotaped evidence that had been ruled inadmissible. The costly process of bringing the case back to court has drawn criticism from those who regard it as a waste of government money — a point raised last week by some prospective jurors.
The case largely will hinge on the believability of two contradictory witnesses — 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 made the ruling about Pettitte.
Pettitte is expected to say that he used HGH and that he had conversations with Clemens about HGH, but the judge ruled that Pettitte can’t identify McNamee as a supplier because the jury might try to connect the dots and conclude that McNamee must have also supplied Clemens — a case of “classic guilt by association,” one of Clemens’ lawyers said.
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.
Walton did not resolve the lawyers’ spat over how much the defense can challenge the validity of the congressional hearing at which Clemens testified. If the hearings are challenged, the government says it should be able to offer widespread evidence about performance-enhancing drug use in baseball to show why Congress was interested, something that Clemens wants to avoid.
Clemens’ lawyer, Rusty Hardin, claims the hearing was merely “a show trial for Roger Clemens.”
The judge put off making a ruling, saying instead he will deal with the matter if and when it comes up during testimony.
Among those in 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.