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Female-dominated jury to begin hearing opening arguments and evidence in Clemens perjury trial
WASHINGTON (AP) ' A jury dominated by women is ready to begin hearing the evidence of whether baseball's Roger Clemens lied about using performance-enhancing drugs.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton welcomed the newly seated jury of 10 women and two men Wednesday before opening arguments. Prosecutors say Clemens lied under oath three years ago when he denied using steroids and human growth hormone during congressional testimony. Clemens maintains that he didn't use drugs during a 24-season career that set several pitching records.
In preliminary discussions before the jury arrived Wednesday, Walton reacted sharply when Clemens' lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, appeared to refer to the proceedings as a "circus."
Walton said, "This is not a circus." Hardin quickly assured the judge he was talking more broadly about the congressional hearings at the heart of the case against the standout pitcher as well as the prosecution. "Do I look suicidal?" Hardin said.
On Tuesday, Clemens' other principal attorney, Michael Attanasio, said the defense will begin by questioning whether the House of Representatives' investigation into whether the pitcher used drugs was a proper legislative inquiry. The defense argues it was not since it didn't concern any legislation and aired a personal dispute between the baseball star and the trainer who accused Clemens of using.
The jury took shape after four days of questioning by Walton and lawyers for both sides. Both sides seemed to want to start with a blank slate, with most of the jurors who were picked saying they know little about baseball or one of its most accomplished pitchers. When one woman said during questioning that she didn't know a thing about the sport, Hardin responded, "That's a plus."
The jurors were told to avoid news and sports programs, but they can read newspapers that have been screened at the courthouse to remove any reference to the case. To keep the panel from encountering the dozens of journalists at the courthouse, the judge told them they will meet off site each day, ride a bus to a back entrance and use nonpublic corridors. They will be served breakfast and lunch in what was once a judge's chambers so they don't have to use the cafeteria where reporters, attorneys and Clemens himself take their meals.
Clemens sat and watched final jury selection but didn't weigh in and left it to his lawyers to pick who will decide his fate.
Attanasio argued before the jury was seated that the hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February 2008 had nothing to do with Congress' responsibility for legislation. He said the hearing was only concerned with airing a "credibility contest" between Clemens and his longtime trainer, Brian McNamee, who said he injected the pitcher with steroids and human growth hormone.
Assistant U.S. attorney Daniel Butler responded that the committee has responsibility for oversight that is broad and goes beyond legislation. He said steroid use in baseball is a drug matter, and pointed out that a 2005 hearing into the issue led to legislation to regulate steroids. It also triggered Major League Baseball to commission a report by former Sen. George Mitchell into the extent of the problem in the league. Clemens was named as a user in the report.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said if "one of the icons of baseball" was taking exception to the Mitchell report, "it seems to me that Congress has the authority to hold hearings to determine which view is correct."
Attanasio said the issue will be addressed in testimony from the first two witnesses prosecutors plan to call after opening arguments Wednesday morning. He said the first will be retired House Parliamentarian Charles Johnson, followed by Phil Barnett, who was chief counsel for the committee at the time it investigated Clemens.
Follow Nedra Pickler's coverage of the Clemens trial at http://twitter.com/nedrapickler