WASHINGTON — The dozen Washingtonians who will decide Roger Clemens’ fate heard a day of closing arguments stuffed with attention-getting sound bites. The eight women and four men then began deliberations Tuesday that will affect not only one of the most successful pitchers of his generation but also the criminal pursuit of athletes accused of illegal doping.
“You,” prosecutor Gil Guerrero told the jurors, “are the final umpires here.”
They heard the key witness called “a flawed man” who produced evidence from a “magic beer can.” They were asked to debate whether it’s “outrageous” that Clemens was charged in the first place, or whether it’s a byproduct from Congress’ “authority to protect the nation’s youth.”
Having digested the competing spins on 26 days of testimony by 46 witnesses, the jury met for some 15 minutes before being excused for the day at 5 p.m. They will reconvene this afternoon, then unless they reach a verdict, take off until Monday because of a long-scheduled out-of-town business trip by the judge.
Clemens is charged with perjury, making false statements and obstructing Congress when he testified at a deposition and a nationally televised hearing in 2008. The heart of the charges center on his repeated denials that he used steroids and human growth hormone.
Clemens’ chief accuser was his longtime strength coach, Brian McNamee, who spent more than a week on the stand and testified that he injected Clemens with both substances. But also essentially on trial was Congress’ right to hold the hearings in the first place, and Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin spent part of his closing statement appealing to the notion that the U.S. government was way out of line.
“What’s happened in this case,” he said, “is a horrible, horrible overreach.”
Prosecutor Gil Guerrero argued that Congress had the right to care because major league baseball players are role models.
“They influence children. They influence kids. Congress has to be involved with that,” Guerrero said in a packed federal courtroom that included Clemens’ wife and four sons.
The case against Clemens was far from tidy, relying heavily on a witness who carried a lot of personal baggage and physical evidence that sat for years inside a beer can. McNamee was the only person who testified to firsthand knowledge of Clemens using the drugs in question.
Clemens’ lawyers spent much of the trial attacking McNamee’s credibility and integrity.
“Saying that Brian McNamee lies zero times,” Hardin said, “is kind of like calling the Grand Canyon a ditch.”
When they left the courtroom, the jurors were handed a complex verdict sheet that includes 13 Clemens statements that are alleged to have obstructed Congress.
While the judge and jury will decide whether Clemens is guilty and goes to jail, the outcome will be irrelevant for many fans who’ve already decided that he cheated. Clemens himself told Congress in 2008 that “no matter what we discuss here today, I’m never going to have my named restored.”