Clemens jury selection like slow baseball game

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens leaves court in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010, after a judge delayed his trial so attorneys can review evidence on charges he lied about using steroids and performance enhancing drugs. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

April 19, 2012 4:01:21 AM PDT
Jury selection in the Roger Clemens perjury case is dragging on like a midsummer baseball snoozer that features drawn out at-bats without any action. In this case, the at-bats are hourlong rounds of questions of potential jurors, with no end in sight.

The mind-numbing task of choosing a jury for Clemens' retrial has gone on for two days and might not be done by the end of the week.

"Things aren't going as fast as I thought," said U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.

The only quick rounds Tuesday were the 11 jurors who were excused for one reason or another -- including some who said religious prohibitions against judging others would prevent them from serving.

But the eight who did make the cut for further consideration took a full day of vetting by the judge, prosecutors and Clemens' defense attorney. Among those who earned Walton's initial approval was a woman who said she was a distant relative of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller. The day before, another juror who was asked back said her dad played minor league baseball.

The Feller relative, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department during the Reagan administration, volunteered that she is a friend of Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole. But she said her friendship with Cole -- they're in a wine-tasting group together -- wouldn't prevent her from giving Clemens a fair shake.

Throughout it all, Clemens sat mostly expressionless, listening to the questioning and often looking at notes. Wearing a dark pinstriped suit, short-sleeved blue dress shirt and red tie, he would occasionally look closely at the jurors from across the room, like he once peered at his catcher to get the sign for the next pitch.

Although he remained mostly silent during the proceedings, Clemens did chuckle when a retiree said her husband told her, upon learning she might serve on this trial, "Get out of it, don't do it!" The retiree was called back for the next round.

The court is narrowing the initial jury pool of 90 to 36, from which to select the final 12 jurors and four alternates who will decide whether Clemens lied when he denied using steroids and human growth hormone before a U.S. House committee in February 2008. The extra 20 are needed because Clemens' lawyers are allowed to strike 12 candidates and prosecutors eight -- without giving any reason.

By the end of the second day, only 32 Washingtonians had been questioned, with 15 -- 11 women and four men -- getting Walton's initial approval.

Meanwhile, Clemens' lawyer offered some clues to his strategy once testimony gets under way, including a challenge to whether Congress had a legitimate purpose in holding the hearing at which the seven-time Cy Young Award winner testified -- and whether Clemens' testimony was voluntary.

During questioning of one potential juror, Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, raised the issue of whether Clemens truly "voluntarily appeared" before Congress. Clemens was not subpoenaed to testify at the 2008 hearing, and the government has always maintained that he testified on his own will.

Clemens' lawyers also filed a memo with the court arguing the government must show that the hearing was a "competent tribunal." The memo listed a dozen "examples of congressional conduct that exceeds the power to investigate," including "asking a witness to appear before a committee to give him an opportunity to tell his side of the story."

"There's going to be a challenge by the defense as to the propriety of the hearing ... and the way it was conducted," Hardin told one prospective juror.


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