WASHINGTON (AP) — Opening day at Roger Clemens' new trial saw several prospective jurors question the purpose of a congressional hearing in which he is alleged to have lied, raising the issue as a possible challenge for prosecutors trying to convict the famed baseball pitcher.
Two of those jurors still made the first cut after being questioned by the judge and lawyers in the case. Clemens watched intently as the jurors answered the questions, occasionally leaning over to chat with his lawyer, flip through papers or jot notes down.
The quest to find 12 impartial jurors and four alternates continues Tuesday. Prospective jurors who have already passed the first hurdle were asked to return Wednesday.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, was back in court Monday in the government's second attempt to prove that he misled a House committee at a landmark drugs-and-sports hearing in 2008. The first trial last July ended in a mistrial when prosecutors introduced inadmissible evidence after only two witnesses had been called.
During Monday's session, one potential juror said he felt "it was a little bit ridiculous" when Congress held hearings on drug use in sports because he felt the government should have been focusing on bigger problems. Asked whether he thought it was wasteful for Congress to hold the steroid hearings, he responded, "Yes."
Nevertheless, the native of Chile — an investment officer for an international bank — was asked to return, the only male to remain in the jury pool among those who were individually screened on the first day. He said he could keep the issue of whether Clemens lied separate from whether Congress should have had the hearings in the first place, saying, "This is a completely different process."
Another potential juror recalled the 2008 hearing by saying, "At the time, I remember thinking it didn't seem to be a great use of taxpayer money." But she, too, was kept in the pool after she said she could be impartial.
"Even if I don't agree with the reason that you're brought before Congress, you still have to tell the truth. ... If you perjure yourself before Congress, it's still illegal," said the woman, who is an executive for an environmental nonprofit organization. The woman said her father played minor league baseball.
But another potential juror was excused after she volunteered, "I don't know if that's the best use of government tax dollars at this time." She said her feelings could influence her ability to serve.
Another was excused when she said Congress spent "too much time" on the investigation.
Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin even hinted that the defense might challenge Congress' authority to call the hearing in the first place, but U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton was skeptical of that line of questioning. The judge reminded lawyers again that some of the jurors from the first trial felt a retrial would be a waste of taxpayer money, adding that one of the hurdles in the case is that some people think "we have some significant problems in this country that are not being addressed by this Congress."