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Jury selection in Clemens trial almost complete

Jury selection in Clemens trial almost complete

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Jury selection in Clemens trial almost complete
WASHINGTON -- The first phase of jury selection in the federal perjury trial of Roger Clemens is complete, with 36 potential jurors qualified for the next step in the process, which will take place Monday.

After the 36th of 71 potential jurors interviewed this week was chosen to remain in the pool on Thursday afternoon, Judge Reggie Walton asked the attorneys for both sides to return to his courtroom Monday at 9 a.m. ET to argue the pending motions concerning the legitimacy of the congressional hearings and the breadth of the testimony from Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte that jurors will hear.

The trial is in recess until Monday because Walton uses Fridays to keep up with other cases. Although the exact schedule is dependent in part on the length of the arguments on the two pending issues, Walton said he hoped to have the jury seated Monday morning.

That schedule would allow opening statements from both sides to be presented to the jury Monday afternoon and perhaps the first witness for the prosecution to be called to the stand before the trial goes into recess for the week as of midday Tuesday because Walton has to be out of town.

Among the 36 jurors who have made it this far, 21 are women and 15 are men. When the final stage of jury selection takes place Monday, the defense will be able to strike 10 members of the pool without cause, and then the government can strike six, also without cause. After that, each side will be able to strike two alternates apiece, leaving the panel with 12 jurors and four alternates.

That was the same process undertaken last July in the first attempt to try Clemens, when the proceedings were cut short on the second day of testimony after the prosecution showed the jury inadmissible evidence and Walton declared a mistrial. In September, Walton ruled that another trial was in order, setting the date of the retrial.

Clemens is being tried on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making a false statement and two counts of perjury based on his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Feb. 13, 2008, and a deposition five days earlier. In both the deposition and the hearing, Clemens denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs. Key prosecution witness Brian McNamee, Clemens' former strength and conditioning trainer, told Congress he injected Clemens on numerous occasions with steroids and human growth hormone, a claim he had made to investigators working on the Mitchell Report.

Before jury selection continues Monday, Walton will hear arguments on two issues that will have great bearing on the trial, whichever way he rules on them. One is in regard to the extent to which the prosecution must establish the 2008 hearings as a "competent tribunal" that had the authority to conduct its interviews of Clemens. The other is how much of Pettitte's recollections of his own use of HGH can come in along with his testimony in a deposition to Congress in 2008 that he and his friend Clemens had a conversation in which Clemens said he had used HGH.

The potential jurors interviewed Thursday included an administrative assistant at the Canadian Embassy next door to the courthouse, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission program analyst who grew up down the street from a house Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle rented while playing for the Yankees, and a high-ranking member of the Department of Treasury who himself has testified before Congress.

Again, as has been the case throughout the selection process, not everyone had previously heard of Clemens, and many just knew about him vaguely as a baseball player. While the program analyst for the NRC actually had seen news accounts of the 2008 hearings and watched the "60 Minutes" interview of Clemens by the late Mike Wallace, most either knew nothing of the case or very little in passing. One juror who was accepted read about the case Tuesday after being told she was in the jury pool, but promised to avoid media contact going forward.

Ultimately, attorneys for both sides wanted to ensure that each of the 36 people who could be part of the jury panel would be fair and impartial, and each in his or her own way articulated that sentiment.

"I have respect of the law and respect for the individual. I see [Clemens] as a human being, not as a criminal," one said.

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

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