By Molly O'Toole
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jury selection in Roger Clemens' perjury trial drew close to exhausting the initial pool of potential jury candidates on Monday after the presiding judge struck out 13 potential member.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton explained Thursday that 36 potential jurors are needed to advance trial proceedings. As of midday Monday, out of an original pool of 50 potential jurors, 24 had been selected but only a dozen remained to choose from.
If the legal teams eliminate more than one juror, the court will have to bring in a new pool of 50 potential jurors to get to 36. It was unclear whether a new pool was on standby or not as of Monday afternoon.
"So we can lose one more juror and we're still all right," Walton said from the bench. "If we lose more than one we've got to go back."
Arguments could be delayed further if an additional pool of 50 potential jurors becomes necessary.
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 including steroids and human growth hormones, allegations he has denied.
Jury selection in the Clemens' case has been so slow and selective that it has taken longer than expected, delaying opening arguments.
Walton chided the legal teams last Thursday for a slow selection process, saying opening arguments could be pushed back to as late as Wednesday this week.
Walton reiterated his point Monday.
"We won't need you back until 2:30 (p.m. local time) tomorrow, so you should be here," Walton said to one selected juror. "Hopefully we will be ready to proceed if you return at that time."
A large number of the 13 jurors rejected were dismissed after questioning from Walton revealed they did not understand the presumption of innocence for the defense and burden of proof for the prosecution under United States law.
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.
(Editing by Greg McCune)