May not testify
Jury selection in Clemens trial a slow process
WASHINGTON - Jury selection continued in the Roger Clemens perjury trial yesterday on the sixth floor of the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse. In an effort to speed up the proceedings, US District Judge Reggie B. Walton kept both sides 85 minutes later than the usual 5 p.m. recess. At the end of the day, Walton decided to proceed with 35 potential jurors, one short of the 36 he had desired.
The 36 took into account the 12 jurors who will be seated, four alternates, 10 strikes allotted the defense, six strikes allotted the prosecution, and two strikes allotted each side for alternates. Walton decided to go ahead, knowing there may be three alternates if the lawyers use all their strikes. (The number may drop to two, pending clarification of one potential juror’s criminal history.)
It is expected the jury will be seated this afternoon and opening statements will take place tomorrow.
During the slow-moving jury selection process, Clemens sat at the defense table, appearing focused and engaged in the proceedings. He occasionally whispered to lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin. And he smiled slightly at some of the lighter moments.
When Hardin questioned jurors, he continually emphasized that the government had the burden of proof. He repeatedly made it clear the defense was not required to prove anything. Hardin also sought to make sure potential jurors understood Clemens was being tried for lying to Congress, not for alleged steroid use. And Hardin inquired if potential jurors would be bothered if the defendant, Clemens, did not testify and if they would be bothered if the defense did not put on any evidence.
With Clemens’s former friend and trainer, Brian McNamee, a key prosecution witness, the government asked potential jurors who worked with trainers or who trained others about the nature of their relationship with their trainers or their clients. Specifically, prosecutors wanted to know if the trainers dictated what their clients should do or if there was more of a dialogue.
Clemens is charged with three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury, and one count of obstruction of Congress. The charges stem from his testimony during a nationally televised hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February 2008 and in earlier interviews with House investigators. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the seven-time Cy Young Award winner lied to Congress when he denied steroid use.
The jurors who will be returning tomorrow include a management analyst who said she thought Michael Vick “was done wrong’’; two yoga teachers; a retired chef who once played football for Syracuse; a woman whose first cousin is former Baltimore Oriole Al Bumbry, who once coached Clemens; a corporate compliance officer for a multinational company who follows European soccer; a lawyer who worked with a personal trainer to get into shape; a Red Sox fan who said she didn’t know anything about Clemens’s days with the team; a mother of two who cheers for the Dallas Cowboys; and an IT consultant educated at the University of Texas-Arlington who first became familiar with Clemens during the pitcher’s college days at Texas.
During questioning, it became clear that Washington is a football city, with many potential jurors not knowing of Clemens, not knowing of him well, or being confused about who he is. One woman said she initially thought the trial involved Roberto Clemente, then realized he was deceased and Googled Clemens. Another woman said she recognized the names Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco, though couldn’t exactly remember the name Canseco, mispronouncing it twice.
Later, she said, “I don’t know nothing about baseball.’’
That prompted Hardin to reply, “That’s OK. You don’t have to.’’
Hardin was, at turns, disarming and charming. Strategically, it appeared he wanted to ensure potential jurors had a favorable impression of him. He made some potential jurors laugh. Others he led down a path of admitting possible bias or showed they misunderstood the presumption of innocence for the defense.
Sometimes Hardin asked potential jurors questions that had no relevance to the case, such as when he questioned a mail carrier what she did about dogs. He told one yoga instructor, “My wife keeps trying to get me to do [yoga]. Telling me it’s not too late. What’s your opinion?’’ The yoga instructor answered, “It’s not too late.’’
But the best exchange came between Judge Walton and the chef, who grew up in Philadelphia but worked for the Washington Redskins.
“You root for the Eagles?’’ asked Walton, knowing the rivalry between the Redskins and Eagles.
“Guilty,’’ said the chef, prompting laughter in the courtroom.
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.