As a pitcher, no one was more intimidating than Roger Clemens. The Rocket’s red glare and intense demeanor on the mound made him one of the most feared and hated opponents in all of baseball. At some points during his career, the hard throwing right hander had such a commanding presence that the at bats of opposing hitters seemed to be over before they even started. This afternoon, federal prosecutors found out that Clemens is just as formidable an adversary in the courtroom as on the field
No sooner than it started, Roger Clemens’ perjury trial came to an abrupt end when U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial after the prosecution revealed inadmissible evidence to the jury. Like a nervous rookie stepping into the box against the seven-time Cy Young award winner, the prosecution’s first crack at Clemens ended up a disaster. However, it wasn’t the Rocket who fired the brush backs. That role was left to Judge Walton, who chided the government’s lawyers for making such a careless mistake.
I think a first-year law student would know you can’t bolster the credibility of a witness with clearly inadmissible evidence.” – Judge Reggie Walton, quoted by Les Carpenter, Yahoo Sports!, July 14, 2011
According to Yahoo! Sports reporter Les Carpenter (@Lescarpneter), who has been covering the trial on Twitter, in addition to the mistrial, Judge Walton stated that a hearing would be held to determine if Clemens could be prosecuted again. If he rules that doing so would subject Clemens to double jeopardy, the legendary pitcher will walk away scot-free.
After falling to convict Barry Bonds on perjury charges back in April, the government’s latest strike out is particularly embarrassing. Considering all the money spent, and questionable tactics used, federal prosecutors have managed to come out looking even worse than the alleged cheaters they have doggedly pursued. Sometimes justice really is blind.
By no means is today’s mistrial vindication for Clemens, just as the hung jury in the Bonds’ case didn’t remove the stigma attached to his name. Regardless, the score remains baseball 2 and prosecutors 0. Although that tally could change if either or both men are retried at a later date, the importance of avoiding a conviction can’t be overstated. Years from now, when substances like HGH are viewed in a much less emotional light and scientific studies have debunked most of the commonly held misconceptions about their performance enhancing effects, many will look back on the careers of Clemens and Bonds with much less damnation. However, if Bonds and Clemens are unable to avoid perjury convictions, they’ll always have that blight upon their record. Even worse, the entire period in baseball history will also share the stain.
Baseball has recovered remarkably well from the handwringing of the “steroid era”, but ghosts remain. Until there is a final legal resolution to the Bonds’ and Clemens’ sagas, the sport will continue to be haunted by the past. For all involved, it has been a time to forget, or, at the very least, misremember.