WASHINGTON — In their final attempt to convince jurors that Roger Clemens lied to Congress, prosecutors basically called his wife a liar, too. In his closing, Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin characterized the case as “a horrible, horrible overreach by the government and everyone involved” and hammered away at the government’s evidence.
Jurors, who met for only 15 minutes Tuesday, resumed deliberations Wednesday afternoon as they work through a complex verdict sheet.
Two jurors have already been dismissed for sleeping, and U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said at a hearing Wednesday — while the jury deliberated in a separate room — that Hardin noticed another one sleeping during his closing argument the day before. Walton said that Hardin told him that’s why he had pounded the podium.
Walton said he wanted to make both sides aware of it, but neither side raised any concerns. A laughing Hardin said that the sleeping juror “hurt my feelings” by staying awake during Saleski’s closing. Prosecutor Steve Durham said he was “just grateful that Mr. Hardin didn’t break the podium.” And Walton quipped there was no money to fix it. While many in the courtroom laughed, Clemens sat expressionless at the defense table.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher, is charged with perjury, making false statements and obstructing Congress when he denied under oath in 2008 that he took steroids or HGH. The government’s chief witness, Clemens’ longtime strength coach Brian McNamee, said he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000.
Prosecutor Courtney Saleski used closing arguments to challenge Debbie Clemens’ version of how and when she got a shot of human growth hormone and tried to bolster government witness Andy Pettitte in the process — just before the case went to the jury.
Debbie Clemens testified last week that she received a shot of HGH from McNamee, without Roger Clemens’ knowledge. McNamee had testified that Roger Clemens was present for the shot, and one of the false statements Clemens is alleged to have made is that his wife was injected without his prior knowledge or approval.
Saleski called Debbie Clemens’ version “not true” and argued that her account went against her basic nature. Saleski said Debbie Clemens lists three rules on her website: Plan ahead, be practical and use common sense — so one wouldn’t expect her to take the “reckless” step of taking a “risky injection of a prescription drug” on her own.
Saleski tried to connect the story to Pettitte, who testified last month that Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 he had used HGH — only to agree under cross-examination that there was a “50/50” chance he misunderstood his former teammate. Pettitte had told congressional investigators that when he brought up Clemens’ admission a few years ago, Clemens had said: “I never told you that. … I told you that Debbie used HGH.”
Saleski acknowledged that Clemens was a great pitcher with a strong work ethic and that “we know that you do not want to find Roger Clemens guilty. Nobody wants to believe he did this.” But she argued the evidence shows that he lied to Congress.
Jurors will have to digest a trial that includes 26 days of testimony by 46 witnesses. They were provided with a complex verdict sheet that includes 13 Clemens’ statements that are alleged to have obstructed Congress. Hardin voiced outrage that the jury was being asked to make Clemens a convicted felon over some of the statements — including whether the pitcher was at teammate Jose Canseco’s house on the day of a pool party in June 1998, an event the government called a “benchmark” days before McNamee’s first injection of Clemens. McNamee said he saw Clemens talking with Canseco, who jurors heard was a steroids user.
“This is outrageous!” yelled Hardin, his face reddening as he pounded the podium three times.
Clemens said at his deposition that he wasn’t at Canseco’s house on the day of the party, but evidence at the trial showed that he was. The judge has said he has some concerns as to whether the party is relevant to the case. Either way, Hardin said some of Clemens’ wayward statements to Congress simply came from a man trying his best to remember and shouldn’t be a reason to return a guilty verdict.