WASHINGTON (AP) – Roger Clemens’ defense may have regained the momentum in his perjury trial when a scientist testified that the government’s physical evidence against the former pitcher could have been contaminated.
“The weight of the evidence in this case is lacking because of the potential for contamination,” forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger, a witness for the defense, said Tuesday.
Clemens’ former strength coach, Brian McNamee, has testified that he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing substances in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and saved the needle and other waste from a steroids injection in 2001. McNamee says he put the evidence in and around a beer can found in a recycling bin and stored it for more than six years in a box in his house.
Government witnesses have testified that some of the items had both steroids and Clemens’ DNA. Goldberger didn’t challenge that but said the government’s conclusions that Clemens had used steroids were overreaching.
“You have to be certain, you have to be definite,” said Goldberger, director of the University of Florida’s William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine.
Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he denied taking steroids or human growth hormone.
Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin steered Goldberger through his attack on the government evidence. What if the evidence had been stored in McNamee’s house for several years, Hardin asked, and then laid out in his lawyer’s office before it was turned over to federal authorities?
“All of that compromises the integrity and reliability of the evidence,” replied Goldberger, who has worked as a consultant to “CSI,” the television drama about crime scene evidence analysts.
And storing the evidence in a beer can makes the evidence even more suspect, he said, because the trace amounts of liquid left could facilitate the transfer of items in the can. Goldberger said that when he drinks a can of soda, there’s some liquid left.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Daniel Butler pointed out that Goldberger didn’t do any testing on the evidence.
“Do you have any evidence from testing that there was cross-contamination?” he asked.
Goldberger said he didn’t but that no test could prove it one way or another.
“Life is messy,” said Butler, asking the scientist about items that his lab receives from the field.
“If you submit garbage to the laboratory, more than likely you’re going to get garbage on the end,” replied Goldberger, who stayed unshaken.
The government nearly kept him off the stand. Butler mounted a strong challenge to Goldberger’s credentials as an expert witness. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton sounded ready to agree at one point: “He’s being asked to give an opinion outside his expertise.”
But Clemens lawyer Hardin vehemently disagreed and eventually persuaded the judge to allow Goldberger to testify with certain limits — including not allowing him to discuss any possibility the evidence was fabricated.
Earlier in the day, a new wrinkle was revealed in a trial that’s already run way longer than expected: One of the jurors is leaving June 19 for a six-month trip to Germany. If the juror is excused, the final alternate would be added to the 12-person panel — a cyclist and gym rat who said during jury selection that he knows people who have used steroids.
Clemens’ lawyers don’t appear to want that man deciding their client’s fate. Hardin lobbied the judge to keep the Europe-bound juror on the panel, confident the trial will be over by then.
The defense hopes to rest by the end of this week, but the trial’s schedule is littered with partial days and off-days due to schedule conflicts. Two days will be missed next week while the judge is out of town. Plus, Walton noted, it’s difficult to predict how long deliberations will take.
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