Jury selection continues in Clemens retrial

Jury selection continues in Clemens retrial

Jury selection continues in Clemens retrial
WASHINGTON -- The meticulous process of selecting a jury in the federal perjury retrial of Roger Clemens continued Tuesday at a pace that had Judge Reggie Walton wondering whether the panel could be seated as quickly as anticipated.

"Hopefully we can get through this faster than we're going," Walton said to one potential juror Tuesday afternoon as he asked her to come back Thursday morning for what he hopes will be the next stage of the process.

On the second day of the retrial, Walton and attorneys for both sides interviewed potential jurors from the pool of 90 called for this case, one by one, in Walton's courtroom at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

By the end of the day, a total of 15 people -- 11 women and four men -- out of the 32 jurors who had come to the stand for further questioning since Monday had been retained. The target number is 36 from which the two sides will be able to use strikes to dismiss potential jurors until there are 12 jurors and four alternates.

Drug Policy in Baseball

A few jurors continued to raise the theme of whether the Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball -- this trial stems from a 2008 hearing that involved Clemens -- was worthwhile or legitimate. The Clemens defense team filed a memo Tuesday setting up its arguments to that end, saying the government must prove that it was a "competent tribunal."

But most of the interviews Tuesday involved more personal issues and viewpoints, and each potential juror who took the stand brought a slice of life to the courtroom.

Only four members of the pool were fully interviewed in the morning, with one potential juror staying on the stand for about an hour before being accepted and another for an hour before being stricken for cause at the request of defense attorney Rusty Hardin.

The latter was an attorney who years earlier had worked in the same non-profit as Phil Barnett, the Congressional staffer who was part of the behind-the-scenes interaction between Clemens and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008. It is that testimony upon which the six charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of Congress against Clemens are based.

Also, it was during direct examination of Barnett that the first attempt to try Clemens ended in a mistrial because the government showed the jury inadmissible evidence.

Juror No. 1300 made it clear he maintains a high regard for Barnett, saying, "I have the sense he's a person that has integrity and honesty."

That was an obvious red flag for Hardin, who asked several questions to the juror about his thoughts on Barnett and whether the juror might favor Barnett's testimony over that of others.

Walton initially retained the juror, and Hardin literally did a U-turn back to the podium to ask that the juror be stricken for cause. Although the government contended the juror made it clear he could be fair and impartial, Hardin said the judge might not realize how important Barnett's testimony will be to the defense, particularly in terms of whether Clemens' appearance before Congress was in fact voluntary.

Hardin said, "It might get pretty adversarial and I can't imagine how this man can fairly judge us."

After Walton discussed how the jury system began in "small-town America," where everybody knew everybody, he eventually agreed to strike the juror.

Earlier, another juror -- a graphic artist who said he would have a hard time staying off Twitter but promised to avoid any contact with outside information on the case -- went through extensive interviews in which he made it clear that he believed Barry Bonds did lie about doing steroids and that he would have had a hard time being impartial in that case.

Hardin pressed the juror, who said he felt Clemens always "seemed professional," on whether he could be impartial in this case, getting only a 9 out of 10 when asked to rate how certain he was that he could. After Walton accepted the juror, Hardin tried to get the man stricken as an "ambivalent juror." Walton denied the challenge.

Among those accepted were a woman who was a former Deputy Assistant to the U.S. Treasurer and a top executive for a media company and another who's a grandmother who's retired after being employed in the U.S. and D.C. governments but still is working hard to get the District of Columbia declared a state.

The day began with a man in his 60s whose appreciation for baseball goes back decades to when he worked for the Minor League club in Richmond, Va., and met several players who went on to the Majors, including current Reds manager Dusty Baker. The man raised eyebrows when he admitted to a few brushes with the law for public drunkenness, in which he felt he was racially profiled, but his answers hit the mark for both sides when it came to how he would hear evidence in the trial.

"Whatever's going on, I look at the facts," he said.

Several potential jurors were dismissed on grounds of religious views, saying they can't pass judgment on others, and a few based on work commitments, but one of the most memorable was dismissed on grounds of domestic tranquility.

Said the juror: "My husband came to pick me up yesterday and said, 'You're on that Clemens case, aren't you?' I said, 'The judge said I can't talk.' He said, 'OK, don't talk.' We did not talk the whole night. I just know this ain't gonna work in my house."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.