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Expert: Clemens' DNA on cotton balls, needle

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens arrives

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens arrives at federal court in Washington. (May 24, 2012) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- A forensic analyst testified in the Roger Clemens trial Friday that he found the former Yankees pitcher's DNA on one needle and two cotton balls that his accuser Brian McNamee says he saved after a steroid injection in 2001.

Alan Keel, a DNA expert at Forensic Analytical Sciences, said his tests found Clemens' DNA on two cotton balls from inside the beer can in which McNamee said he stashed evidence, and he also found DNA compatible with Clemens' on a needle top from outside the can.

Clemens attorney Michael Attanasio challenged the findings, asking Keel why he didn't test certain pieces of evidence and calling the results of the DNA testing on the needle "weak," much weaker than the results that found Clemens' DNA on the cotton balls.

Jurors showed a keen interest in Keel's testimony, which took all day Friday, and at the end submitted many questions for him on technical DNA issues, the possibility of manufacturing the DNA evidence and his ties to prosecutors.

On the witness stand for the second day, Keel said under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Saleski that the evidence of Clemens' DNA on the cotton balls was indisputable, calling it "unique to only one person who lived on the planet."

But Keel said that in the needle, he only found six to 12 cells, a very small amount of biological material. The DNA results left a 1-in-449 chance among American Caucasians that Clemens' DNA is unique.

That's compared to the 1-in-15.4 trillion and 1-in-173 trillion probabilities on the cotton balls.

The smaller trace of Clemens' DNA on the needle is not indicative that it had been planted there, Keel said, because it would be more difficult to produce that kind of small result.

"Is there any way to fake this?" Saleski asked.

"No," Keel said.

Attanasio emphasized Keel's finding that 1 in almost 450 people would match the seven markers in the test that found Clemens' DNA on the needle. Keel agreed that as a result, hundreds of thousands of people in this country might possibly match those seven markers.

Attanasio raised the possibility that the items could have been cross-contaminated by other items after being placed in a beer can with leftover beer or saliva, and then being "jostled" inside the FedEx box that held the can and other material for seven years.

Saleski responded with her own hypothetical: that the needle with Clemens' DNA had somehow slipped out of the beer can, which had been dry and didn't transfer blood or other biological materials among the items.


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