Potential Clemens trial jurors interviewed

Newsday's Jim Baumbach discussed the Roger Clemens trial on News 12. (July 6, 2011)

WASHINGTON -- Potential jurors in the perjury trial of Roger Clemens were quizzed Thursday about their knowledge of the former Yankee's baseball career and their opinions of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Only a handful of the 29 people who have been interviewed by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton and lawyers for both sides after two days of jury selection admitted to knowing who Clemens is. But their unfamiliarity about Clemens' status as an accomplished pitcher nicknamed "Rocket" hasn't helped speed along the process.

So far, Walton has qualified 18 potential jurors from a pool of 50, excusing another 11 mostly for health issues and language barriers. Walton said he intends to qualify at least 36 jurors before the attorneys can whittle the list down to 12 jurors and four alternates.

Walton said he was hoping to reach that stage so the trial could begin with opening statements Tuesday, but he told lawyers following the afternoon proceedings Thursday that the slower-than-expected pace of the selection process has pushed that original schedule back by at least one day.

Clemens faces charges of perjury, obstruction of Congress and false statements related to statements he made under oath before Congress three years ago. That's when he repeatedly denied using steroids and human growth hormone.

For the second straight day, Clemens watched the selection process in silence as potential jurors were asked to comment on topics ranging from their overall interest in baseball to their opinions of Congress' role investigating performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.

Some of the people interviewed by the judge and lawyers expressed an interest in serving on the jury, including a young man who said he's a baseball fan who has been to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

When that potential juror said he's been following baseball closely since the late 1980s, Walton quizzed him by asking what team Clemens was on then. "That would be the Red Sox," he said, and Clemens nodded in approval.

Another potential juror said she remembered watching Clemens pitch for the Houston Astros "and his induction into the Hall of Fame." That last part, however, never occurred, and his inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame is considered to be in jeopardy as Clemens fights the charges. Clemens had no visible reaction to her Hall of Fame comment.

The judge began the jury-selection process by asking them 82 questions, including whether they have ever played pro sports, used steroids, lifted weights, heard about Barry Bonds' recent perjury trial or testified before Congress.

Jury selection resumes Monday; court will not be in session Fridays during the trial.

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