WASHINGTON (AP) — A prosecution witness told jurors that Roger Clemens DNA' showed up on two cotton balls and one needle allegedly used for a steroids injection of the famed pitcher. He then spent almost the entire day fielding questions from lawyers for both sides and from jurors.
The jury seemed to realize this was a critical moment in the case and sent a host of questions for U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton to ask the witness, Alan Keel of Forensic Science Associates. It took more than an hour just to handle their inquiries — far more than the jury's questions for other witnesses.
Walton is rare among judges in allowing jurors to pose questions, and he and the lawyers screen them in bench conferences for legal propriety to determine which ones Walton will ask.
The government had hoped to wrap up its case Friday, but the lengthy appearance by Keel made that impossible.
In addition, Walton ended the session a half-hour early when one of the jurors learned that her mother had died. The judge said he doesn't expect the juror, a female who works in law enforcement with the local public transportation authority, to return. Two jurors have previously been dismissed for sleeping, and another departure would leave only one alternate in a trial expected to last at least two more weeks.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is accused of lying to Congress when he denied using steroids or human growth hormone.
Keel testified that one of the cotton balls had a random match possibility of one in 15.4 trillion for Clemens' DNA, and the other had one in 173 trillion, when comparing to the population of white people in the U.S. Keel said that meant the matches were "unique to one person who has ever lived on the planet" — Clemens.
The needle was not as conclusive, because Keel was able to detect only six to 12 cells for testing when he examined it. A drop of blood, by comparison, contains up to 30,000 cells. This was one in 449 for Clemens.
"That means that Mr. Clemens is the likely source of that biology," Keel said.
Jurors submitted multiple questions about the needle results.
"There's the rub," said Keel as he explained again that the results were compatible with Clemens — but couldn't be considered a conclusive match.
Earlier government witnesses testified that steroids were found on the medical waste that Brian McNamee, Clemens' former strength coach, said he collected after injecting the pitcher with steroids in 2001. McNamee turned the materials over to federal authorities in 2008.
Under cross-examination, Clemens' lawyer tried to poke holes in the physical evidence, getting the expert to acknowledge there were "hundreds of thousands" of white males in the U.S. who could be a match for the scant amount of DNA found on the needle, and that it's "conceivable" the cotton balls could have been contaminated by beer and saliva.
The attorney, Michael Attanasio, also asked Keel to agree that "you don't know how anybody's DNA got into the needle because you weren't there." Keel remained silent for a good 15 seconds before asking the lawyer to repeat the question. After it was repeated, Keel paused again, before saying that although he wasn't there, the most plausible explanation is that someone with that DNA had been injected.
On redirect, prosecutor Courtney Saleski asked about the possibility of manipulating the evidence in the needle — a theory the defense has offered.
"It would be virtually impossible for somebody" to leave just the trace amount of biological material, he said. "It's not conceivable."
In a light moment, she switched topics by saying, "I want to talk to you a little bit about puss," which prompted Keel to laugh.
Keel also found a gauze pad and tissue that matched McNamee's DNA to an even greater probability than the Clemens matches. McNamee has said he would sometimes accidently cut himself while opening small glass containers of steroids before injecting Clemens.
The gauze pad match was 1 in 1.8 quintillion people for white Americans.
A quintillion has 18 zeroes in it.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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