WASHINGTON - After eight weeks, jurors are finally getting to hear closing arguments in the Roger Clemens perjury trial Tuesday, and they are expected to begin deliberations later in the day.
The long-winded case is creeping fitfully to the finish line with an outstanding issue: whether to toss one of the false statements Clemens is alleged to have made to Congress in his 2008 deposition about whether he was at a pool party hosted by then-teammate Jose Canseco on June 9, 1998. Clemens said in his deposition that he was not at Canseco's house on or around that day.
"I do have problems with that allegation," U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said after Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin asked that it be dropped. Hardin said there was "no way a reasonable juror" could find that allegation material to the charges against him.
Prosecutors have connected Clemens' alleged attendance to steroids use in vague terms: Clemens' chief accuser, his former strength coach, Brian McNamee, testified he saw Clemens talking at the party to Canseco, identified to the jury as a steroids user, and a third man, just days before Clemens allegedly asked McNamee for a first injection of steroids.
Just last week, Walton indicated the jury would have to assess whether the issue was material to the 2008 congressional investigation on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. But on Monday afternoon, he said he'd talk the issue over with some of his colleagues and make a determination about whether to keep it.
Prosecutor Steven Durham said that both Congress and Clemens' own lawyers had made the party a significant issue, because it went to the credibility of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
Clemens' denial of being at Canseco's house is one of 13 alleged Clemens lies cited in the count charging the former baseball pitcher with obstructing Congress. Clemens also is charged with two counts of perjury and three counts of making false statements for denying he took steroids or human growth hormone.
Last week, Debbie Clemens tried to bolster her husband's version of events when she said the two of them went golfing on the day of the party. But she also testified that the family had stayed at Canseco's house the night before, and came by the house after the party concluded.
On Monday, the defence made it official that Roger Clemens would not take the stand. With the jury out of the room, Clemens came up to the podium, leaned in, and told Walton in a deep Texas drawl, "Yes, sir, I am not testifying."
Walton asked him if he had a chance to discuss the decision with his lawyers.
"Yes, judge, I sure have," Clemens said.
Jurors will have to digest and process 26 days of testimony from 46 witnesses. Barring a quick verdict, they'll take a four-day break after Wednesday, because the judge has an out-of-town commitment. When they return next week, one of the jurors is scheduled to leave for a six-month trip to Germany.
With that in mind, Walton shuffled the jury lineup. He decided to designate the Germany-bound juror as the alternate, and promote the final alternate — an avid cyclist who said during jury selection that he knows people who use steroids and thinks they're a "pretty stupid thing to do."
The defence used its final witness to try to discredit McNamee, who testified that he injected the former pitcher with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000. He is the only witness to claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens' use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens' lawyers devoted much of the trial to attacking his integrity.
Jerry Laveroni, the former security director for the New York Yankees, said of McNamee, "I don't believe he could be believed under oath."
Laveroni, who overlapped with Clemens and McNamee in 2000 and 2001, said he was around McNamee every day.
Hardin asked how much credibility McNamee has.
"Zero," Laveroni replied.
The government's rebuttal witnesses included two who already had testified in the trial. FBI toxicologist Cynthia Morris-Kukoski countered a defence expert's opinions about the waste McNamee said he stored in and around a crumpled beer can after an alleged steroids injection of Clemens in 2001. The defence has repeatedly referred to the evidence as "garbage."
"One man's garbage," Morris-Kukoski's said, "is another man's find."
The combative nature of the trial was exemplified by the testimony of Ed Blake, a DNA expert from Forensic Analytical Sciences. Blake took issue with some of the opinions expressed by the defence's DNA expert. That drew several challenges from Clemens lawyer Michael Attanasio during cross-examination.
"You're trying to confuse this jury," Blake told Attanasio. "And you're trying to confuse me."
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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