WASHINGTON - (AP) - Roger Clemens' perjury trial opened today with both sides raising the prospect of calling a roster of former baseball stars as witnesses and the judge angrily criticizingCongress for withholding an audiotape of Clemens' deposition at theheart of the case.
Clemens is accused of lying under oath to the House GovernmentReform Committee in 2008 when he denied ever usingperformance-enhancing drugs during his record-setting career as amajor league pitcher. The trial began with an intensive juryselection process expected to last into next week.
Prosecutors and the defense read the panel a list of people whomay be called as witnesses or mentioned at the trial that includedsome of the biggest names in baseball, including those who havebeen at the center of the steroid scandal such as Mark McGwire,Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco. The listalso included baseball commissioner Bud Selig, New York YankeesGeneral Manager Brian Cashman, former Yankees manager Joe Torre,former players union director Donald Fehr and several otherofficials and teammates from the four major league teams Clemensplayed for.
Jurors were asked about their knowledge of those figures as well as their feelings about the case, baseball, Congress and the law.They were asked whether they played organized sports, read sportsnews or were baseball fans. One woman was not. "I can't imaginespending money to watch a sport where guys scratch themselves andspit a lot," she said, drawing a smile from Clemens, who otherwisesat expressionless through most of the proceedings.
The initial trial day began with a vigorous debate over the tape of Clemens deposition to House Government Reform Committee staff onFeb. 5, 2008. Ten of the 15 false or misleading statements Clemensis accused of making to Congress came during that deposition - theother five were during a public hearing eight days later.
The House publicly released a transcript of the deposition heldbehind closed doors, and prosecutors say the House initiallyindicated it would turn the audio recording over as evidence forthe trial. But William Pittard, a lawyer for the House, appeared incourt Wednesday and told U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that theHouse clerk has the tape and it can only be released by a Houseresolution.
Hardin angrily responded that if jurors are to determine whether Clemens intended to obstruct Congress, "tone of voice becomescritical." He said the House referred Clemens for prosecution andshould not then be able to choose which evidence to turn over.
Walton said he agreed that "it doesn't look good" to haveCongress withholding evidence, but he didn't think he could forceanother branch of government to turn over material because theConstitution's separation of powers. He raised his voice as hescolded the House for trying to "hide behind technicalities" andsaid if Clemens is convicted, the court may have to considerwhether he was deprived of a fair trial without the tape.
Hardin said he had a subpoena prepared to hand to House attorney Pittard, but Walton said he couldn't allow that in the courtroom. Pittard replied that it may have been possible to arrange aresolution with more time. He criticized Clemens for implyingCongress won't turn over material he never asked for before and for"waiving a subpoena around in the courtroom on the day his trialbegins."
Walton then addressed another key evidence issue - whetherClemens former Yankee teammates Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch andMike Stanton will be able to testify they got drugs from the sametrainer who says he provided them to Clemens. Prosecutors say thetestimony is critical to back up the allegations by trainer BrianMcNamee under Clemens' denials and accusations that McNamee is aliar.
Walton said during a pretrial hearing Tuesday that he probablywouldn't let the other Yankees testify about their drug use becauseit could lead the jury to improperly conclude that Clemens might beguilty, too. But he said he thought about it overnight and thinksthe testimony might be valid if Clemens claims that McNamee triedto blackmail him with fabricated evidence.
Clemens attorneys indicated Tuesday they plan to explain thatMcNamee fabricated evidence against Clemens to ensure the starpitcher would continue employing him as a personal trainer after helost his job as a Yankees trainer. But Walton questioned whyMcNamee would try to frame Clemens when there were other playerswho admit they got drugs from McNamee and who the trainer couldhave blackmailed.
Roger Clemens pleads not guilty to perjury chargesRoger Clemens to be arraigned Monday on perjury charges