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Posted at 04:25 PM ET, 07/07/2011

Roger Clemens trial: Sticking it to high-profile athletes

All eyes are on Roger Clemens during the pitching legend’s perjury trial, but should the Justice Department have its focus elsewhere? (Mark Wilson - GETTY IMAGES)
As U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton presides over the jury selection process for Roger Clemens’ upcoming perjury trial, the fading celebrity of the 11-time all-star pitcher are coming into focus.

But as the potential pool of jurors is whittled down to the final 12 through questions about their opinions on steroid use, sports and Congress in general, a larger issue lingers.

Out of thousands of federal defendants, only a handful are charged with perjury on an annual basis — the Justice Department simply doesn’t pursue perjury cases. But over the last several years, high-profile athletes have made up an increasing percentage of that handful.

Post columnist Sally Jenkins ruminated on the topic in a March, 2008 column.

“Normally the government doesn't go after the drug users; it wants the sellers and distributors. But in this situation it's the inverse. It flies in the face of any sensible anti-drug effort. Something is fundamentally wrong. Everything is backward. What are we doing?

“Making an example out of people, obviously. And perhaps building political careers.”

At least one potential juror expressed similar feelings during Thursday’s selection process (from Del Quentin Wilber’s Crime Scene blog entry):

“Given all of the problems the country is facing, this would not have been one of my priorities.”

After he admitted he might acquit Clemens even if the evidence proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the juror was excused.

So is it really worth revisiting the Clemens case, driving home the point that lying to Congress — if you’re a household name — is a serious offense, and continuing to relive the dark days of baseball’s steroid era? Or do Congress and the court system have bigger fish to fry?

What do you think?

By  |  04:25 PM ET, 07/07/2011

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