A legendary slugger’s perjury trial loomed large during jury selection Tuesday in the case of all-star pitcher Roger Clemens, as potential jurors in the District criticized former San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds and the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.
“If it gives somebody an edge, it should be illegal,” said one potential juror, who described himself as a Baltimore Orioles fan during proceedings in the District’s federal court.
“In a way, it’s cheating,” said another, who said Bonds should have “stepped up to the plate’ and admitted to using steroids.
“If you’re a professional and you do something professionally, you should act with integrity,” he said.
A San Francisco jury deadlocked last summer on charges that Bonds lied about using performance-enhancing drugs, finding him guilty of one charge of obstruction of justice.
Rusty Hardin, Clemens’s defense attorney, questioned whether the man’s poor impression of Bonds would affect his ability to fairly judge Clemens, who is charged with lying to a congressional committee about taking performance-enhancing drugs during a 2008 investigation.
Clemens is on trial for a second time. His first trial ended after just two days last summer because of a prosecutorial error.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton is trying to narrow the field of potential jurors to 36 before attorneys for Clemens and the government have the final say in selecting a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates.
There were light moments Tuesday when one potential juror gave Walton a tutorial on Twitter, the social media site. The self-described news junkie said it “would be asking a lot from me personally to refrain from looking at the news,” but also said he would restrain himself.
“Are you saying you wouldn’t Tweet or be tweeted?” replied the judge.
Hardin’s line of questioning on Tuesday suggested that the defense will challenge the legitimacy of the congressional hearing, how Clemens was treated by the committee, and whether he appeared voluntarily when he testified about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
As a result, Walton agreed to dismiss one potential juror because of his knowledge of and admiration for Phil Barnett, the former Democratic chief counsel for the House committee, who Hardin said would play an important role in that discussion.
Potential jurors were dismissed for reasons including religious objections to passing judgment on other people and concerns about marital harmony.
One woman told Walton that when she would not discuss the Clemens case with her husband the previous night, “We didn’t talk the whole night. This ain’t gonna work in my house.”
Walton promptly let her go.
There were also reminders of how small a town Washington, D.C., can be. One potential juror who made the cut today said she is in a neighborhood wine club with deputy U.S. attorney general James Cole; on Monday, another recalled neighborhood chatter on Capitol Hill about Clemens being in town and dining at the Capitol Grille.
This item has been updated.