WASHINGTON -- The Roger Clemens federal trial began Wednesday with the start of jury selection, but only after the two legal sides sparred right up to the time potential jurors entered the courtroom.
The case of the United States of America vs. William R. Clemens officially got under way with Judge Reggie Walton reading through a lengthy questionnaire aloud to the first of two pools of 50 potential jurors, then allowing each side to further examine each individual based on their answers to the questions.
One of the first questions was whether potential jurors knew any of the nearly 140 people the defense and prosecution listed as potential witnesses, or at least names that jurors will hear in the trial. It's a list that includes more than 40 former or current Major League players and other personnel, including Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and sluggers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and others whose roles range from management to massage therapists.
Clemens, a 300-game winner and 11-time All-Star, is standing trial at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charged with perjury, giving false statements and obstruction of Congress regarding Clemens' assertion that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. The charges are based on his testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Feb. 13, 2008, and a deposition behind closed doors eight days earlier.
Prior to the scheduled 9:30 a.m. start to the trial, defense attorney Rusty Hardin argued before Walton that audio recordings of Clemens' deposition should be made available by the prosecutors. Walton initially chided the government for withholding the audio, for which there is a transcript available, saying Congress risks being seen as "hiding behind things" by not providing the audio. An attorney for the House of Representatives responded that this was the first request for the audio, and that it would take a House resolution to release it.
The last-minute motion, which included Hardin trying unsuccessfully to serve a subpoena for the recording to the government lawyers in the courtroom, ultimately was not granted by Walton, and the jury selection went on as planned, beginning about 40 minutes later than originally scheduled.
Once it did, Hardin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Durham ran through each of their lists of names that will be involved in the case, with the government mentioning more than 90 and the defense more than 40.
Among the former Major League players who were introduced to the jury as potential witnesses or people whose names will come up in the trial included Boggs, Cy Young winner David Cone, Brad Ausmus, Mike Boddicker, Darrin Fletcher, Charlie O'Brien and Woody Williams from the defense side, and Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Jason Grimsley, Chuck Knoblauch, C.J. Nitkowski, Rafael Palmeiro, Jorge Posada, David Segui and Mike Stanton from the prosecution side.
Former Sen. George Mitchell, who oversaw the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball which led to the House hearings in 2008, as well as Commissioner Bud Selig and former Players' Association chief Donald Fehr were on the prosecution's list as well.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman, former Astros GM Tim Purpura, former Yankees manager Joe Torre, former Astros manager Phil Garner, broadcasters Joe Angel and Tommy Hutton, numerous physicians, trainers and massage therapists who have worked in baseball over the years and agents Alan and Randy Hendricks, Clemens' longtime representatives, also were mentioned by the prosecution.
Both sides also noted several agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, other government agents and Congressional staffers that might be involved in the trial.
Of course, the prosecution also mentioned key witness Brian McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer, and former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, from whom McNamee said he received performance-enhancing drugs he injected into Clemens. McNamee testified in the 2008 hearing that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone -- keeping medical waste that will be used as evidence in the trial.
Unlike the recent Bonds trial, which prescreened jurors with a questionnaire that included 63 queries to whittle down the pool, Walton read aloud each of the 82 questions on the questionnaire he and the attorneys for both side agreed upon prior to the trial.
There is a pool of 125 total potential jurors, whose identities will remain sealed as long as they're in the pool. The court is prepared to go through at least two pools of 50 in the coming days, with potential jurors undergoing further individual examination from Walton as well as defense and prosecution on questions they indicated they'd seen things or formed opinions.
Ten potential jurors went through that process Wednesday, with three jurors excused. One was a woman who had numerous doctor's appointments -- and who apparently knew Walton, saying as she left the stand upon being excused, "How you doing Judge Walton? It's been a long time." Another was someone who runs a small non-profit and couldn't miss time, and another was a former athlete and personal trainer who knew a lot about the case because he's an avid sports fan.
While much of the questionnaire was boilerplate that would fit in any trial -- whether they can be impartial, etc. -- it also included numerous references to performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports, and most mentioned they had opinions in that area.
"Athletic competition should be based on natural ability," one said.
The questionnaire also included a number of questions about following sports in general and baseball in particular. While one woman had no qualms about professing her love for the game, not many of the potential jurors thus far are baseball fans.
"I can't imagine paying money to watch players scratch and spit," one potential juror said.
After the seven jurors still in the pool were sent home, each was told they wouldn't be needed until Tuesday morning, at which point Walton hopes to have 36 candidates from which to select the final 12 jurors and four alternates. Once that happens, opening arguments will proceed.
Clemens who played for the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros in his 23-year career, was in the courtroom throughout the day.
In a trial expected to last 4-6 weeks, Clemens is charged with six felony counts regarding 15 statements he made during his testimony before Congress and in a deposition beforehand. The maximum penalty if found guilty on all the charges would be 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine, although such penalties would be unlikely given that Clemens has no criminal record. Previous federal cases involving athletes lying about their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs have brought penalties of months of house arrest.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.