Judge chides Clemens case legal teams for slow jury process

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 07, 2011 5:33 PM
Judge chides Clemens case legal teams for slow jury process

By Molly O'Toole

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The presiding judge in baseball legend Roger Clemens' perjury trial chided the legal teams for a slow jury selection process on Thursday, saying opening arguments could be pushed back to as late as Wednesday next week.

The trial of Clemens, a former 11-time All-Star pitcher, began Wednesday. Clemens is charged with lying to Congress and obstructing an investigation into whether he took performance-enhancing drugs like steroids and human growth hormones, allegations he has denied.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton urged both the prosecution and defense against unnecessary questioning or visiting subjects the judge himself addressed when questioning potential jurors.

"Please be prudent in what you ask," Walton said from the bench, while stating his appreciation for the importance of the jury selection process.

"As it is, we're not going to finish by Monday; at the pace we're going it looks like Tuesday or Wednesday."

Walton reemphasized his earlier point about picking up the pace to a selected juror after the man's questioning, saying: "Sir, we won't need you again until hopefully Tuesday morning."

Clemens' baseball career spanned 24 years and four teams, including the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees franchises. He is a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award, the Major League's award to the best pitcher, and is one of only a handful of players to strike out more than 4,000 batters.

Clemens has denied publicly ever taking drugs to boost his performance, saying his trainer injected him with vitamin B12 and the pain reliever lidocaine. He retired at 45, unusually late for a pitcher.

Walton, government prosecutors and Clemens' defense asked potential jurors a wide range of questions, from fan allegiances to the ethics of performance enhancing drugs.

"I have never been to a Washington Patriots game," one potential juror responded to a query, in an apparent reference to Washington's major league team the Nationals. She later put herself as "at least an 8" on a scale of one to 10; 10 being an avid baseball fan.

The judge and defense repeatedly reminded potential jurors that Clemens is being charged with lying to Congress, not for allegations Clemens may have knowingly been injected with steroids.

"He is being charged with a crime for having denied committing a crime, before Congress," said Rusty Hardin, head of Clemens' legal team.

Hardin has also represented other sports figures, including professional basketball star Scottie Pippen and baseball infielder Wade Boggs.

The legal teams also repeatedly came back to the question of whether or not it is appropriate for Congress to use taxpayer money to pursue such subjects as the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.

"I've seen incidents where members of companies or even members of Congress have lied and they have not been prosecuted," said one potential juror, who was excused from case. "I don't think it's all even."

(Editing by Jerry Norton)