A federal judge dealt a potentially fatal blow to the perjury trial of baseball legend Roger Clemens by declaring a mistrial after prosecutors committed the basic error of presenting barred evidence to the jury.
On just the second day of testimony, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said prosecutors erred in playing video of Congressional testimony referencing statements made by the wife of a “critical” witness in the case.
“I am very troubled by this,” said Walton said before declaring a mistrial. He said he felt that prosecutors’ actions had ensured that jurors would not be able to “render a fair and impartial” verdict.
Walton said he would hear arguments in coming weeks about whether prosecutors can re-try Clemens, one of the most-decorated pitchers in baseball history, without violating his constitutional right against double jeopardy.
In this case, it isn’t just up to prosecutors to decide whether to bring Clemens back to court. Because a jury already had been sworn and because the mistrial resulted from prosecutorial error, the decision will be Walton’s. He could choose to dismiss the case entirely
I totally fail to see the problem with professional athletes using anabolic steroids. This whole case is bullshit and whoever has been spending public money to promulgate it needs to be flogged.
SO hawkeye, I guess that you are ok with congress fuckin time away with hearings on " our freedom to buy lightbulb" rights but not pressuring their caucuses to get on with the debt ceiling in ernest.
This decision was an example of an overzealous prosecutor.
the prosecution blew it big time.
Almost as soon as it began, Clemens' perjury trial ended Thursday -- in a mistrial the judge
blamed on prosecutors and said a "first-year law student" would have known to avoid.
The dramatic decision left legal observers wondering how such a high-profile prosecution could end so abruptly, on just the second day of testimony. A review of transcripts and interviews with people knowledgeable about what happened reveals that federal prosecutors did not intentionally introduce barred evidence to the jury. Despite years of experience, two well-respected prosecutors had made a basic mistake and not carefully reviewed the videos they planned to show jurors.
Their error was intensified because it occurred in front of a by-the-book judge who noticed it before defense lawyers could even raise an objection.
“Because of the prosecutors’ excellent reputations, you have to believe it’s a mistake, just a mistake,” said Tom Zeno, a former colleague of the two government lawyers. “What compounds the error here,” he added, “is that the judge runs a very tight ship and had high expectations of the prosecutors.”
Citing a judicial gag order, the two prosecutors in the Clemens case — Steven Durham and Daniel Butler — declined to comment. Former colleagues and defense lawyers said the men are straight shooters.
“Steve is a boy scout,” said Preston Burton, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “He is principled, fair and decent. Dan is an honest guy. Both are hard-working prosecutors with a lot of integrity.”
Prosecutors argued that they had turned over the videos to the defense in early May, and Hardin had not objected when they were introduced into evidence that morning. “There is no bad faith here on the part of the government in trying to prove this case,” pleaded Durham, who had been admonished during opening statements when Walton felt the prosecutor had presented prohibited information to the jury.
Clearly troubled by what had just happened in his courtroom, Walton asked Hardin what he wanted to do, and the defense lawyer said that “the best I can suggest is the court’s admonition to the jury that they are to disregard” the video. The judge left the courtroom for 11 minutes.
Upon the judge’s return, Hardin had changed his mind and requested a mistrial.
Walton agreed. Not only did prosecutors introduce barred information, the judge said, but they also had played a video in which a congressman was praising the credibility of a key prosecution witness, also a problem. The judge also didn’t understand why prosecutors didn’t redact references to Laura Pettitte from the video.
Walton said such statements were not fair to the defense because they made it more difficult for Clemens’s lawyers to attack Pettitte on the stand. He then turned his frustration on prosecutors.
“A first-year law student would know you can’t bolster one witness . . . with clearly inadmissible evidence,” the judge said before declaring the mistrial.
After the ruling, the two prosecutors sat silently at their courtroom table, staring at their hands and paperwork. According to their friends, the two crestfallen men realized that Walton was right in one respect. The prosecutors had committed a rookie blunder: They hadn’t reviewed the videos in light of the judge’s rulings before playing them in court
WASHINGTON -- Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday on all charges that he obstructed and lied to Congress
in denying he used performance-enhancing drugs to build his long and brilliant career as one of the greatest
pitchers in baseball history.
"I'm very thankful," Clemens said, choking up as he spoke after the verdict. "It's been a hard five years," said
the pitcher, who was retried after an earlier prosecution ended in a mistrial.
This trial was lengthy, but the deliberations were relatively brief. Jurors returned their verdict after close to
10 hours over several days. The outcome ended a 10-week trial that capped the government's investigation of
the pitcher who holds seven Cy Young Awards, emblematic of the league's best pitcher each year.
Emotional hugs among Clemens and family members followed the verdict, including one large group hug in the
courtroom. At one point, wife Debbie Clemens dabbed his eyes with a tissue.
Outside, at one point, Clemens stopped to compose himself.
Accused of cheating to achieve and extend his success -- and then facing felony charges that he lied about it --
he declared, "I put a lot of hard work into that career."
He said he appreciated "my teammates who came in and the emails and phone calls" of support. With his four
sons standing behind him, Clemens thanked his attorneys, his family, his sisters and his wife.
His chief lawyer, Rusty Hardin, walked up to a bank of microphones and exclaimed: "Wow!"