Finally, they mull over such responses as: Baseball players scratch themselves. A lot of athletes take steroids. Lawmakers lie. And, who is Roger Clemens, anyway?
Citing a gag order issued by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case of Clemens, a 48-year-old former All-Star pitcher, declined to discuss their pretrial strategies. Outside experts, however, said the questions posed by the judge and attorneys reveal their belief that jurors’ feelings about sports and Congress could prove critical in shaping a verdict.
“Jury selection is more art than science,” said Thomas C. Green, a District-based defense lawyer with no connection to the Clemens case. “There are lots of mental gymnastics in this.”
Charged with perjury, obstructing Congress and making false statements, Clemens is accused of lying when he testified before a House committee in 2008 that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs.
His trainer, Brian McNamee, testified at the same hearing that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone with the pitcher’s knowledge.
The trial marks the second recent prosecution of a legendary baseball player accused of lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs during his career. In April, the trial of slugger Barry Bonds concluded in a California federal court with the player convicted of obstruction of justice after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on perjury charges.
Clemens has joined a list of players once considered surefire Hall of Fame inductees — such players as Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, among others — whose associations with performance-enhancing drugs, whether admitted or alleged, have marred their sporting legacies and Major League Baseball’s image.
For now, the focus is on Clemens, who was indicted last summer. The jury selection process, which began Wednesday with 50 men and women, will play out over at least two more days. Walton, who has a reputation for being thorough in jury selection, has already chosen 18 people to be part of a final pool of 36 potential jurors.
Eleven others have been cut. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will use jurors’ answers to help decide who else to strike to get a final 12-member jury, which will hear evidence over a month or so.
In many ways, the importance of these questions and answers won’t be fully known until a verdict is reached: Will a juror who is a huge baseball fan be more sympathetic to Clemens or the government? If someone thinks lying to Congress is a serious crime, is he or she likely to convict?