Truly, to tell lies is not honorable;
But when the truth entails tremendous ruin,
To speak dishonorably is pardonable.
--Sophocles, Fragment 323 of Creusa
Today was the first day in the federal government’s perjury trial against former baseball star Roger Clemens. Clemens is accused of lying to a House committee in 2008 when he voluntarily appeared before them (oops!) and denied using performance-enhancing drugs. The 48-year-old seven-time Cy Young Award winner is facing up to 30 years in prison.
On the first day of voir dire I went into the courtroom café for lunch and immediately lucked into line behind the 'ole Rocket. While wearing a terrible lime green energy wristband to complement his conservative grey suit, he ordered a hot ham’n swiss and a glass of OJ. I sat at the table next to him, his six lawyers and his wife Debbie. Their conversation wasn't terribly enlightening (Yeh, what was I expecting?), though Roger told his lead attorney, Rusty Hardin, that someone's potential testimony would amount to hearsay. Rusty patiently and silently nodded.
Roger looks like a great white shark stuffed into a suit. I now understand why Mike Piazza and countless other hitters decided it was better to walk to first base than charge the mound after being hit by a Clemens’ fastball. His wife looks much better in person than she does in the photo-shoot pics you find online. Rusty is charming and quick-witted, intense but calm, the kind of person you want to believe and would hate to disappoint.
And if you're interested, at the close of lunch Debbie confirmed they were grabbing a X:XX p.m. flight out of Reagan National Airport to Houston on XXXX--coach, but she bought the entire row of seats so you can't sit next to them. Roger thought that was fine; I hope you do too.
Here’s the great white shark passing your blogger/poetry boy into court on day one of voir dire. As the poet Duncan Primeaux would say over his Boddingtons while picking a bar fight, “you take the guy with seven Cy Young Awards and I’ll take the former division three baseball player from Wisconsin.”
Excuse me L.A. Times but for the record I didn't ask him a question:
Clemens’ lawyers did an impressive job of preparing potential jurors for the possibility that Clemens may not need to testify. This concept was confusing for a couple of them. Many of the potential jurors were dense and I’ll let you decide if this will constitute a jury of Roger’s peers.
One potential juror said he was a Yankee fan at the time Roger played for the Yankees but doesn't know when or if he retired. He thought Barry Bonds was guilty of perjury and that he pled guilty to the charge. (He wasn’t and he didn’t.) He was also clearly lying when he said he knew about George Mitchell and BALCO. When asked what exactly he knew about them, he said he didn't know anything. The juror didn't know where his own wife worked. He thought the government was always right. He thought Clemens was on trial because he's charged with taking steroids. His last name is Jeter but said he's not related to Derek. Really?!
A women said she was a Sammy Sosa fan and when asked if she knew of Roger Clemens said, "I've never heard of him." Sadly, the judge told the juror that Sammy Sosa is very unlikely to be called as a witness.
But the highlight was:
Q (Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin): What is your occupation?
A (Potential Juror Man who walked briskly in and out of the courtroom): I've been on complete disability since 2000 for my back.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: Yes, I enjoy riding bikes.
Roger Clemens (thinking): And I'm on trial?