WASHINGTON (AP) - The judge declared a mistrial Thursday in
baseball star Roger Clemens' perjury trial after prosecutors showed
jurors evidence the judge had ruled out of bounds.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said the prosecutors had made
a grave mistake. And he said Clemens could not be assured a fair
trial after jurors were shown evidence against the court's orders
in the second day of testimony.
Walton scheduled a Sept. 2 hearing to determine whether to hold
a new trial. He told jurors he was sorry to have wasted their time
and spent so much taxpayer money, only to call off the case.
"There are rules that we play by and those rules are designed
to make sure both sides receive a fair trial," Walton told the
jury, saying such ground rules are critically important when a
person's liberty is at stake.
"If this man got convicted, he would go to jail," Walton said.
He said that because prosecutors broke his rules, "the ability
with Mr. Clemens with this jury to get a fair trial with this jury
would be very difficult if not impossible."
Prosecutors suggested the problem could be fixed with an
instruction to the jury to disregard the evidence, but Walton
seemed skeptical. He said he could never know what impact the
evidence would have during the jury's deliberations "when we've
got a man's liberty at interest."
"I don't see how I un-ring the bell," he said.
Defense attorney Rusty Hardin patted an unsmiling Clemens on the
back as the judge announced his decision. Clemens did not speak to
reporters as he left the courtroom and made a telephone call in a
private corner of the hallway.
Clemens and his lawyers remain under a court gag order and they
declined to comment as they left the courthouse. Clemens hugged a
couple of court workers, shook hands with the security guards and
signed autographs and a couple of baseballs for fans
"I'm not going to say anything," Clemens said, sounding
frustrated at the mass of reporters and camera crews. He and his
legal team ducked into a nearby restaurant to escape the horde of
Walton interrupted the prosecution's playing of a video from
Clemens' 2008 testimony before Congress and had the jury removed
from the courtroom. Clemens is accused of lying during that
testimony when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs
during his 24-season career in the Major Leagues.
One of the chief pieces of evidence against Clemens is testimony
from his former teammate and close friend, Andy Pettitte, who says
Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he used human growth hormone.
Clemens has said that Pettitte misheard him. Pettitte also also
says he told his wife, Laura, about the conversation the same day
Prosecutors had wanted to call Laura Pettitte as a witness to
back up her husband's account, but Walton had said he wasn't
inclined to have her testify since she didn't speak directly to
Walton was angered that in the video prosecutors showed the
jury, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., referred to Pettitte's
conversation with his wife.
"I think that a first-year law student would know that you
can't bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly
inadmissible evidence," Walton said.
He said it was the second time that prosecutors had gone against
his orders - the other being an incident that happened during
opening arguments Wednesday when assistant U.S. attorney Steven
Durham said that Pettitte and two other of Clemens' New York
teammates, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton, had used human growth
Walton said in pre-trial hearings that such testimony could lead
jurors to consider Clemens guilty by association. Clemens' defense
attorney objected when Durham made the statement and Walton told
jurors to disregard Durham's comments about other players.
There was no objection from Clemens' team during the Laura
Pettitte reference, but the judge stopped the proceedings, called
attorneys up to the bench and spoke to them privately for several
minutes. Hardin pointed out during that time, the video remained
frozen on the screen in front of jurors with a transcript of what
was being said on the bottom.
Cummings had been quoting from Laura Pettitte's affidavit to the
committee. "I, Laura Pettitte, do depose and state, in 1999 or
2000, Andy told me had a conversation with Roger Clemens in which
Roger admitted to him using human growth hormones," the text on
the screen read.
The judge eventually told the jurors to leave while he discussed
the issue with attorneys in open court.
"Government counsel should have been more cautious," Walton
said, raising his voice and noting that the case has already cost a
lot of taxpayer money. He then left the courtroom and said he would
go consult with a colleague on what to do.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)