WASHINGTON - Roger Clemens’s lawyer toyed with Brian McNamee’s memory and attacked him from several directions at once. The attorney even put an easel next to the witness with the words: “MISTAKE. BAD MEMORY. LIE.’’ Eventually, there came the inevitable question: “Do you sometimes just make stuff up?’’
McNamee frequently has taken long pauses before answering questions in three days on the witness stand, but he didn’t hesitate this time. He leaned into the microphone and said softly but assuredly: “I didn’t make it up.’’
Clemens’s chief accuser was on the stand for two hours of aggressive cross-examination Wednesday on one of the most important days - perhaps the most important - in the perjury trial of the seven-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher. Clemens is charged with lying when he told Congress in 2008 that he never used steroids or human growth hormone.
McNamee has testified he injected Clemens with both, and the credibility of Clemens’s former friend and longtime strength coach no doubt will be the No. 1 topic when the jury starts deliberating the case.
Going for style over substance, Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin was as colorful as his outfit - bright orange tie, cream-colored suit - and continued his practice of mispronouncing the witness’s name as mac-nah-MAY instead of MAC-nah-mee. He skipped from topic to topic without warning, often confusing McNamee while trying to sow seeds of doubt in the jurors.
McNamee, who now has spent 12 hours on the stand with more to come Thursday, alternated between fidgety and focused. At various times he looked curiously at the courtroom ceiling, draped his arm around his chair, or leaned forward to scratch an itchy foot while Hardin was asking questions. McNamee sometimes seemed perplexed by simple yes-or-no questions and stumbled through an answer about his birthday.
Other times, he was more firm and direct. He complained when Hardin asked him a convoluted, multipart question: “Which one do you want me to answer?’’ “Pick one,’’ Hardin replied.
Hardin was perhaps most effective when he got McNamee to agree that his memory about events connected to Clemens had improved once McNamee began cooperating with federal investigators looking into steroids and baseball.
“Is it true that ever since you began making these accusations about Mr. Clemens, your memory and versions of what happened and details have sort of evolved?’’ Hardin asked.
“Yes sir,’’ McNamee answered.
Hardin asked if McNamee had “intentionally lied’’ to investigators.
“Yes sir,’’ McNamee replied. McNamee testified earlier in the week that he originally minimized Clemens’s involvement with performance-enhancing drugs in what he said was an effort to protect the pitcher.
Hardin worked the same angle when McNamee had trouble remembering what was written on the cover of a book he started writing but never published.
“You remember little details all the way back to 1998, but you have to have me show you the cover of your book before you know what’s on it,’’ Hardin said.
Referencing the easel, Hardin would cite various statements and ask McNamee to put them in the category of “mistake,’’ “bad memory’’ or “lie.’’ McNamee conceded to one case of a “bad memory’’ before court adjourned for the day at noon because of a juror’s schedule conflict.
The trial is in its fifth week and is danger of losing a third juror to boredom. Prosecutors expressed concern Wednesday as to whether Juror No. 13 has been sleeping during testimony. Two other jurors have been dismissed for sleeping.