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Clemens trial begins jury selection
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Clemens stood and uttered “Morning” to the 90 potential jurors who had gathered in the ornate, sixth-floor ceremonial courtroom, the one deemed big enough to hold them all. After he sat down, he swiveled his chair, as if trying to make eye contact with as many as possible.
Some of those looking back had no idea who he was. Others, including two who survived the first cut, wondered if it was a waste of taxpayer time and money that got him to this point.
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner was back in court Monday in the government’s second attempt to prove that he misled a House committee at a landmark drugs-and-sports hearing in 2008. The first trial last July ended in a mistrial when prosecutors introduced inadmissible evidence after only two witnesses had been called.
One potential juror said he felt “it was a little bit ridiculous” when Congress held hearings on drug use in sports because he felt the government should have been focusing on bigger problems. Nevertheless, the native of Chile — an investment officer for an international bank — was asked to return, the only male to remain in the jury pool among those who were individually screened on the first day.
Another potential juror recalled the 2008 hearing by saying: “At the time, I remember thinking it didn’t seem to be a great use of taxpayer money,” but she was kept in the pool after she said she could be impartial.
“Even if I don’t agree with the reason that you’re brought before Congress, you still have to tell the truth .... If you perjure yourself before Congress, it’s still illegal,” said the woman, who is an executive for an environmental nonprofit organization.
But another potential juror was excused after she volunteered: “I don’t know if that’s the best use of government tax dollars at this time.” She said her feelings could influence her ability to serve.
Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin even hinted that perhaps the defense might challenge Congress’ authority to call the hearing in the first place, but U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton was skeptical of that line of questioning. The judge reminded lawyers again that some of the jurors from the first trial felt a retrial would be a waste of taxpayer money, adding that one of the hurdles in the case is that some people think “we have some significant problems in this country that are not being addressed by this Congress.”
By the end of the day — after the proceedings had moved to a smaller courtroom — only 13 potential jurors had been screened and just seven had been asked to return Wednesday for more screening. Clemens made about $160 million in salary and bonuses in his 24-year major league career, but it’s safe to say hardly any of it came from the three District of Columbia residents — all African-American females — who made the cut after saying they had never heard of him.
“I’m not a fan of sports — period,” said one prospect, who works as a cashier at a grocery store.
As the clock was hitting 5 p.m., Walton called it a day and chided the lawyers over the day’s tedious pace: “It doesn’t help the process to repeat what I’ve already asked.”
The retrial is expected to last four to six weeks, with the first several days devoted to finding 12 jurors and four alternates with no preconceived opinion about the case. The vetting process began with Walton taking more than an hour to read 86 yes-or-no questions to the entire pool, including “Do you have any opinions about Major League Baseball — good, bad or whatever?”
Lawyers on both sides read a list of 104 people who could be called as witnesses or whose names could be mentioned during the trial, including former sluggers Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco; baseball commissioner Bud Selig; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman; baseball writer Peter Gammons; and former Clemens teammates Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada and Mike Stanton.
Perhaps the most important name was Brian McNamee, Clemens’ former strength trainer, who says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone and says he kept used needles that will be entered as scientific evidence at trial.
Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin stressed to the jury pool that not all of those potential witnesses would be called, or else they “would be here about two years.”
Clemens, wearing a gray suit with a stylish diagonal-patterned tie, gave a warm handshake to a court employee he recognized as he entered the courtroom. He read papers in a manila folder while waiting for the proceedings to start and occasionally took notes once jury selection was under way.
Clemens faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine if convicted on all six charges. Maximum penalties are unlikely because Clemens doesn’t have a criminal record, but Walton made plain at the first trial that Clemens was at risk of going to jail.
Under U.S. sentencing guidelines, he probably would face up to 15 months to 21 months in prison.