WASHINGTON - The Roger Clemens perjury retrial could turn into an ad hoc forum on the general problem of drug use in baseball, depending on the outcome of the latest lawyers’ spat over the landmark congressional hearing that landed the seven-time Cy Young Award winner in court.
Jury selection inched forward Thursday, with the panel being narrowed to 36.
Opening arguments were set for Monday afternoon as the government responded to plans by Clemens’s lawyers to challenge whether the 2008 hearing in which Clemens testified was a “competent tribunal.’’
Fine, responded the government. If the defense does that, prosecutors should be able to introduce all sorts of evidence to show why Congress called the hearing. In a filing with the court, the government said it should be allowed to have testimony about “drug use by other major league players,’’ including “more detailed testimony regarding the use of steroids by Jose Canseco’’ as well as testimony related to teenage suicides attributed to steroid use.
Clemens’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, indicated throughout the week that he plans to raise doubts about the hearing. Hardin told one prospective juror: “There’s going to be a challenge by the defense as to the propriety of the hearing . . . and the way it was conducted.’’ Hardin has filed a brief suggesting the hearing wasn’t “competent’’ because it wasn’t an attempt to gather facts that could help Congress do its job of creating laws.
At the same time, the Clemens team doesn’t want its client to be a victim of any sort of “guilt by association’’ with other players. His lawyers have asked the court to bar Clemens’s former teammate, Andy Pettitte, from testifying that he received human growth hormone from Brian McNamee, the same trainer who says he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH.
US District Judge Reggie Walton is expected to hear oral arguments on both motions Monday. Walton had hoped to rule on the Pettitte matter Thursday, but jury selection took up the entire court day before he cut the session short to attend a previous engagement.
Walton also plans to select the final 12 jurors and four alternates Monday morning.
Clemens is accused of lying when he said he never used steroids or HGH at the 2008 congressional hearing and at a deposition that preceded it. Last year’s mistrial was called after the government showed the jury evidence that had been ruled inadmissible.