WASHINGTON (AP) - Chided by the judge for what he called a confusing and mostly pointless cross-examination, Roger Clemens’ lawyer is finally turning after 19 hours to his central accusation: that Brian McNamee doctored physical evidence to frame the former star pitcher.
Broaching the subject at the end of the day Thursday, lawyer Rusty Hardin put up a picture of the gauze, needles and tissues that McNamee says he had used to inject Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, along with the Miller Lite beer can in which he stored some of the evidence. McNamee, Clemens’ former strength and conditioning coach, said the can came from the recycling bin in Clemens’ apartment.
Clemens is accused of lying to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee testified this week that he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with steroids and human growth hormone.
Hardin didn’t get far before the court recessed until Friday. He did get McNamee to acknowledge that he never saw Clemens drink a light beer.
The lawyer intends to attack the integrity of the physical evidence, which is key to the government case. Prosecutors say evidence will show the materials contain steroids and Clemens’ DNA.
Hardin insinuated that McNamee manufactured the evidence after Clemens’ televised denials of steroids use.
“All of a sudden, the person being accused is fighting back,” Hardin said, “and you have to figure out some way to save yourself.”
Defense lawyers have said that they will attack the chain of custody of the materials, which McNamee said he stored at his house from 2001 until 2008, when he and his lawyers turned the evidence over to federal authorities.
The Clemens team has also suggested that McNamee put the steroids in the needle after injecting Clemens and that McNamee had instead used the needle to inject Clemens with vitamin B12. Clemens has maintained for years that he received B12 shots and the local anesthetic lidocaine but not performance-enhancing drugs.
Earlier Thursday, Hardin tried to prove that it was McNamee who was the real liar.
For example, Hardin brought up the time that McNamee told federal investigators he didn’t have any physical evidence that Clemens did steroids.
“You lied to them, didn’t you?” Hardin said.
“Absolutely,” McNamee said.
“And you haven’t been charged with a crime,” Hardin said.
Sometimes McNamee admitted lying; other times he said he had “minimized” or “exaggerated” or “embellished.”
For example, McNamee has admitted he initially told federal investigators he had only injected Clemens four times in 1998, only to say later it was eight to 10.
“That was a lie, wasn’t it?” Hardin charged.
“I’m having a problem with the `lie’ thing,” McNamee said.
Throughout, the witness was even-keeled, never getting too excited.
Hardin took an angry and condescending tone with McNamee. He started many questions with, “Isn’t it true …”
McNamee seemed to delight in needling his inquisitor. After a series of rapid-fire questions, he said, “I’m trying to keep up, man.” To one aggressive question which began “Are you saying …,” he replied, “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
This week, McNamee said that he didn’t initially turn over physical evidence because he wanted to protect his client. But he said he changed his mind after Clemens’ lawyers allowed details of McNamee’s son’s illness to be disclosed when they played a recording of a phone call at a nationally televised news conference.
McNamee also agreed that his reasons for initially collecting the evidence have been “a moving target.”
His repeated that his wife nagged him about becoming the fall guy.
“I started buying into what she was saying — kind of,” he testified. “I had no other way to get her off my back.”
He also said he didn’t trust Clemens “to a degree,” which is what he told congressional investigators in 2008.
Hardin expressed disbelief that McNamee could think bringing home evidence of a crime was the right solution to his wife’s complaints.
Clemens watched the testimony closely, leaning forward in his chair, hands clasped together. At other times, he rested his chin on his thumb, with his index and middle fingers on his face. Later, he pushed his fingers into his forehead. His usual note-taking was much less frequent.
Some of the things Hardin went after were small-bore: He displayed a calendar to show that a 1998 pool party at former slugger Jose Canseco’s house was on a Tuesday, when McNamee had remembered it taking place on a Saturday. Hardin spent a good chunk of time of the morning session on that and suggested McNamee could take a look at a calendar during lunch to refresh his memory
When the parties returned from lunch, Hardin asked if he had a chance to look at a calendar.
“No, I just had a sandwich,” McNamee answered.
Earlier, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton snapped at both sides as the case slogged toward the end of its fifth week. He bluntly told Hardin that his cross-examination is “confusing everybody, but I don’t think it’s making much of a point.”
The judge made that comment, out of earshot of the jury, after revealing that some jurors had wondered how long the trial will last.
“At this pace, I’ll guess we’ll be here forever,” Walton said.
A prosecutor said he expected to finish the case by the end of next week — or at the latest early the following week. He said the government had 14 more witnesses after McNamee.
“Fourteen additional witnesses?” Walton said incredulously.
After the government’s case, the defense then brings its own witnesses if it chooses to.
Walton said that the case is taking too long, that jurors want to get back to their lives. He warned that one side could suffer — although he didn’t know which one.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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