Well that was fast. We’ve heard about the government’s case against Roger Clemens for months and it has picked up in recent days with jury selection and the beginning of the trial but just like that, it’s over. And it’s because the prosecutors royally screwed up.
I don’t know much in the ways of law except for the dozens of episodes of Law and Order I’ve watched, but even I know that when a judge tells you not to present something to the jury, you can’t just ignore his orders. And that’s what the prosecutors did.
Andy Pettite says that he had a conversation where Clemens admitted to taking human growth hormone (HGH). Pettite told prosecutors that he relayed that conversation to his wife, Laura. The U.S. government wanted to put on Laura on the stand to testify to this, but Judge Reggie B. Nelson ruled the evidence inadmissible as it is hearsay. From everything I’ve watched on tv and read about hearsay, it’s a correct and straightforward ruling. The prosecutors should have expected it and abided by it.
But then came today’s openings statements. Prosecutors showed the jury a video of Clemens’s testimony in front of Congress from 2008. In the video, Representative Elijah Cummings read off a sworn affidavit from Laura Pettite saying that her husband had relayed the conversation. Judge Nelson stopped the video, removed the jury from the courtroom and chastised the prosecutors for disobeying his orders.
“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.
Lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin asked for a mistrial and was granted it. Hearings will follow on whether the government can even attempt to prosecute Clemens again given the law against double jeopardy. But they should give up this case anyways.
As much as Clemens cheated and lied about it under oath, Congress and the U.S. government has bigger fish to fry. Yes, I know that the government has to ensure that people cannot just take the stand and lie but hasn’t enough time and money been wasted trying to make a mockery of a man who’s legacy has been thoroughly damaged? In the court of public opinion, Clemens was convicted a long time ago. There’s no reason to do so in an actual courthouse.
All in all, the prosecutors were as big of an embarrassment as Clemens was in this case. Defense attorney Hardin is laughing himself to sleep at how easy this was. The prosecutors gave him a mistrial on a gold platter. I’m sure Clemens will walk out of the courthouse relieved at not facing jail time, but his reputation is forever tarnished and a mistrial isn’t going to change that.