The retrial of baseball great Roger Clemens began in earnest Monday after a week of jury selection. Clemens is charged with lying in 2008 to a congressional committee when he denied ever using steroids or human growth hormone.
He will be judged by a jury of 10 women and 6 men — 12 jurors and 4 alternates — who will decide whether Clemens lied under oath about using the drugs when he testified before a congressional committee investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Prosecutor Steven Durham in his opening statement to the jury said Monday that Clemens, unlike other baseball greats who owned up to their mistakes, told lies and “other lies to cover up those lies.” The prosecutor used a string of pejoratives to describe what he called the “Clemens story” — “deceit…dishonesty…betrayal…hypocrisy…vanity…ego…and pride.”
The prosecution’s main witness is one-time trainer Brian McNamee, who is expected to testify that he repeatedly injected Clemens with steroids and HGH. Clemens’ defense lawyers will argue that McNamee made up the steroids allegations and then cut a deal for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
The defense will also highlight McNamee’s character warts, which include him parlaying his position as a Yankees trainer into a job promoting dietary supplements and marketing himself as Dr. Brian McNamee — a title he earned from a diploma mill in Louisiana that has since been shut down. He was also investigated on a rape charge in 2001 involving a near fatal dose of a date-rape drug, but police dropped the matter after questions were raised about the alleged victim’s credibility.
Because of McNamee’s past, the prosecution will try to buttress his testimony with physical evidence such as syringes and cotton swabs that have traces of steroids, HGH and Clemens’ DNA. The problem is what lawyers call “chain of custody.” McNamee claims he kept these syringes and cotton swabs for two years in a closet while the defense will likely suggest that McNamee doctored them.
The prosecution is also expected to call a more stellar witness: fellow pitcher and teammate Andy Pettitte, who was one of Clemens’ best friends. Pettitte has admitted using these drugs and says Clemens once admitted to him that he used HGH. Clemens doesn’t say his old friend is lying. He says Pettitte either misheard or misunderstood something he said.
Clemens’ first trial was aborted last summer when prosecutors showed the jury evidence that Judge Reggie Walton had ruled inadmissible and a mistrial was declared.
Jury selection for the second trial took a week, with many jurors dismissed when they said they thought the prosecution was a waste of the government’s money. The ones who made the cut appear to be largely uninterested in baseball. Of the 12 jurors and four alternates, seven said they had never heard of Clemens. Neither the jury nor the public has been told which of them are alternates. The group is roughly two-thirds female; seven are white, nine African-American. The group includes a Treasury Department employee, an art historian with the Smithsonian, a program analyst with the D.C. government who loves to read Christian romance novels and bake, a retired political science professor, a supermarket cashier and a Nuclear Regulatory Commission analyst who grew up down the street from a house rented by baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.