Baseball - Roger Clemens' perjury trial begins

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 6, 2011 10:04pm BST

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens arrives for the first day of his perjury trial, at the federal courthouse in Washington, July 6, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens arrives for the first day of his perjury trial, at the federal courthouse in Washington, July 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Baseball pitching great Roger Clemens may call ex-teammates to testify in his defence at his perjury trial while a prosecutor said on Wednesday he may mention or call as witnesses star players implicated in the steroids scandal.

Both sides laid out their potential strategies on the first day of the trial in which one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history has been accused of lying to Congress when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens was indicted a year ago on charges he gave false statements to a U.S. congressional committee investigating steroid use in baseball, perjured himself under oath and obstructed the lawmakers' inquiry into widespread drug use that tarnished the sport's reputation.

Clemens, 48, the winner of a record seven Cy Young Awards for best pitcher in his league, has denied taking human growth hormones or steroids or lying to Congress. If convicted, sentencing guidelines call for up to 21 months in prison, though the maximum penalty is 30 years.

Prosecutor Steven Durham said his list of those who could be part of the case by mention or as potential witnesses included baseball stars who have admitted using steroids, such as sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

He also listed former slugger Sammy Sosa and homerun king Barry Bonds. Bonds, the retired San Francisco Giants slugger, was convicted in April on one obstruction charge but a jury was unable to decide whether he lied about using steroids.

Defence lawyer Rusty Hardin said his list of potential witnesses include the defendant's wife, Debra Clemens, and former teammates including Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.

Both the prosecutor and the defence attorney said they may call Clemens' former managers and coaches. The prosecutor also listed Brian Cashman, the New York Yankees general manager who was with the team at the same time as Clemens.

INDEPENDENT REPORT CITED DRUG USE

Potential witnesses were disclosed as part of the process to select 12 jurors who will be charged with deciding Clemens' guilt or innocence. The judge and both sides wanted to make sure prospective jurors do not know any potential witnesses.

The charges against Clemens stemmed from an independent report commissioned by Major League Baseball that found many players had used drugs, prompting the House of Representatives Oversight Committee to hold hearings.

The trial, expected to last at least a month, will pit the word of Clemens against that of two former close associates who were listed among prosecution witnesses -- former trainer Brian McNamee and former teammate Andy Pettitte.

Clemens' defence team argues his primary accuser, McNamee, is a habitual liar and trumped up the allegations and evidence about drug use to distract from his own legal problems, stemming from a 2001 sexual assault investigation.

Judge Reggie Walton called in the first batch of potential jurors on Wednesday, gave them a written questionnaire to fill out and then asked them questions individually.

He said picking a jury would likely take three days.

Potential jurors were asked if they had coached or played professional sports or whether they knew any professional athletes. They were also asked if they were fans of professional baseball, if they had ever attended a Major League Baseball game or had heard about the Barry Bonds trial.

The list of more than 80 questions also asked whether the potential jurors knew any members of Congress or congressional staffers, had ever testified before Congress or were familiar with the congressional hearings about steroids in baseball.

Walton also reversed himself on a key issue, saying he would probably allow teammates of Clemens to testify about their steroid injections from trainer McNamee.

(Reporting by James Vicini; editing by Todd Eastham)

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