WASHINGTON – Roger Clemens’ perjury trial opened Wednesday with both sides raising the prospect of calling a roster of former baseball stars as witnesses and the judge angrily criticizing Congress for withholding an audiotape of Clemens’ deposition at the heart of the case.
Clemens is accused of lying under oath to the House Government Reform Committee in 2008 when he denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs during his record-setting career as a major league pitcher. The trial began with an intensive jury selection process expected to last into next week.
Prosecutors and the defense read the panel a list of people who may be called as witnesses or mentioned at the trial that included some of the biggest names in baseball, including those who have been at the center of the steroid scandal such as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco. The list also included baseball commissioner Bud Selig, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, former Yankees manager Joe Torre, former players union director Donald Fehr and several other officials and teammates from the four major league teams for which Clemens played.
The initial trial day began with a vigorous debate over the tape of Clemens deposition to House Government Reform Committee staff on Feb. 5, 2008. Ten of the 15 false or misleading statements Clemens is accused of making to Congress came during that deposition – the other five were during a public hearing eight days later.
The House publicly released a transcript of the deposition held behind closed doors, and prosecutors say the House initially indicated it would turn the audio recording over as evidence for the trial. But U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton was told that the House clerk has the tape and it can only be released by a House resolution. Hardin angrily responded that if jurors are to determine whether Clemens intended to obstruct Congress, “tone of voice becomes critical.”