Federal prosecutors on Tuesday rested their perjury case against retired baseball star Roger Clemens, having elicited testimony from 24 witnesses — on topics ranging from performance-enhancing drugs and vitamin injections to a “booty shot” and a crumpled beer can.
The trial already has gone far longer than the four to six weeks prosecutors estimated when they began picking jurors on April 16. Since then, a parade of witnesses — ranging from New York Yankees pitcher and former teammate Andy Pettitte and athletic trainers to a colorful steroid dealer and forensic experts — have testified about Clemens, his career and whether he took steroids or human growth hormone. Prosecutors allege Clemens lied when he denied to Congress in 2008 that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens has challenged those allegations and his lawyers began presenting their case to jurors Tuesday that the pitcher became a superstar by working hard, not taking drugs. Their first witness, a high school teammate of the future “Rocket,” testified that Clemens trained so intensely that he blazed a trail in the outfield grass while doing running drills.
Another defense witness, a college teammate, described Clemens’s “diligent, disciplined” routine. “Roger had made up his mind he was going to be successful,” said Mike Capel. “He worked extremely, extremely hard to earn everything he had.”
Defense lawyers have indicated they expect to present seven or eight days of evidence to jurors. One of those witnesses might be Clemens’s wife, Debbie, who is expected to testify that she took human growth hormone, not her husband.
Before resting their case, federal prosecutors called a financial consultant to testify in the hopes of buttressing the credibility of Brian McNamee, Clemens’s former strength coach. McNamee, a key but troubled witness, has alleged he injected Clemens with steroids or human growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001. The financial consultant, Anthony Corso, was also one of McNamee’s clients and testified that the strength coach told him in 2002 or 2003 that Clemens had used human growth hormone to help him recover from workouts.
Corso also testified that McNamee told him in 2005 that he had kept syringes from injections he gave ballplayers so the strength coach would not “get thrown under the bus.” McNamee added that he kept the syringes in a beer can that he put in a box, the financial consultant testified.
Corso testified that he worked out with McNamee from 2002 through 2007 and took growth hormone on McNamee’s recommendation.
McNamee turned over the beer can and box of medical waste to authorities in 2008. Forensic scientists have testified that Clemens’s DNA and steroids were discovered on a needle found in the box — but outside the beer can. The pitcher’s DNA also was discovered on bloody cotton swabs in the can, an expert said. Clemens’s lawyers have assailed the evidence as “garbage” and argued that it could have been contaminated.
The pitcher’s lawyers scored a minor legal victory when U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed to dismiss two of 15 acts that constitute a charge of obstruction of Congress. Even so, jurors only must find that he committed one of those remaining 13 acts to convict him of that charge. Walton declined to dismiss any of the other five charges of perjury or making false statements.
In other developments, a third juror was dismissed from the panel because her mother died last week. That leaves 12 jurors and one alternate to finish out a trial that has already reached extra innings.