WASHINGTON - Prospective jurors screened yesterday for the Roger Clemens perjury trial were more critical of Congress for spending time investigating drugs in baseball than they were of the star pitcher on trial for lying to lawmakers about ever using them.
The 11-time All-Star watched intently but didn’t speak as members of the jury pool faced intense questioning from the judge and lawyers from both sides. Nearly as many were turned away on the second day as qualified to be considered for the panel that will eventually be seated, including two who were excused after they said they weren’t sure they could be fair because of their feelings about Congress.
“Even members of Congress have lied to Congress and they have not been prosecuted,’’ said one candidate.
Clemens faces six felony counts on accusations he lied to Congress under oath when he testified that he never used steroids or human growth hormone. His statements came during a deposition and a hearing at the House Government Reform committee, which took up the issue after a report to Major League Baseball accused Clemens and 85 other current and former players of using performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens’s longtime trainer, Brian McNamee, testified to the committee that he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner repeatedly with both substances. And Clemens’s former teammate Andy Pettitte said Clemens once told him he used human growth hormone. Clemens says Pettitte misheard him and that McNamee lied.
Committee leaders asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clemens committed perjury.
One potential juror said he saw the documentary “Bigger, Stronger, Faster*’’ that questioned whether steroids should be illegal and suggested the Clemens investigation was a waste of congressional resources. The man, who is chief financial officer at an accounting firm, called the film convincing and said he agreed Congress should have higher priorities than steroids.
Jury selection moved slowly, and US District Judge Reggie Walton said as the afternoon wore on that it was clear the screening process wouldn’t be finished Monday as he hoped but more likely would take until Tuesday or Wednesday because the trial is in recess today. He urged lawyers to move quicker. “Please be prudent in what you ask,’’ Walton said.