WASHINGTON — Roger Clemens, one of the most imposing and accomplished pitchers in baseball history, is going on trial Wednesday to fight allegations that he used drugs to enhance his power on the mound.
Like other players who have been indicted in baseball's steroids era, Clemens has not been charged with drug crimes but instead is accused of lying about drug use. Clemens told a House committee under oath in 2008 that he never used performance-enhancing drugs during a standout 23-season career in which he won a record seven Cy Young Awards as his league's top pitcher.
The federal court trial of U.S. vs. William R. Clemens begins by narrowing a pool of 125 Washington residents to a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates. The first 50 prospective jurors are to appear Wednesday, and U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton hopes to have the panel selected by early next week. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
Walton plans to ask potential panelists to answer 67 questions about their background, opinions and knowledge of the case. Both sides sought a written questionnaire, but Walton said that's not his practice because it "disadvantages less-educated people." He said he would give attorneys wide latitude to ask follow-up questions.
The case will pit Clemens against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone several times during the decade that he helped shape him into one of the most feared pitchers in the major leagues. Clemens' attorneys say McNamee is a serial liar who made up the allegations against his star client to save himself from joblessness and prosecution on drug charges.
Clemens' lawyers will try to discredit McNamee, a former New York City police officer, by pointing out a series of lies the trainer told in the past. They also want to introduce allegations that he drugged and raped an unconscious woman in a Florida hotel pool while traveling with the New York Yankees in 2001. The judge will have to decide whether to let that allegation in, considering that McNamee was never charged with a crime.
Prosecutors want to back up McNamee's allegations against Clemens through testimony from his former Yankee teammates Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton. All three admit they got performance drugs from McNamee, but Walton says he probably won't let them tell jurors about it because it could cause them to unfairly assume that Clemens must have as well.
Pettitte is the only person besides McNamee who says Clemens admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs. Pettitte has said Clemens told him privately in 1999 or 2000 that he took injections of human growth hormone, but Clemens says his old friend misheard him.
Clemens is charged with six felony counts, including perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress, which carry a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. But even if jurors convict him on all counts, it's unlikely Clemens would serve nearly that long because he doesn't have a criminal record.
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