Justice Department Forces Mistrial After Violating Court Order in Clemens Trial

In an enormous embarrassment, the Justice Department forced a mistrial in the trial of baseball star Roger Clemens after its attorneys committed a flagrant violation of the court’s orders. Clemens will now have to be retried after U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton found that the Justice Department severely undermined a fair trial for the accused. The sanction is a sharp blow to U.S. Assistant Attorney Steven Durham and his team — and a rare example of a court imposing such sanctions against the government. Defense attorneys often complain that prosecutors engage in such conduct — including some intentional slips — because they are confident that the jury will simply be told to disregard the evidence. It is not known if this was an intentional or simply negligent act by the prosecutors.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton had previously withheld admission of evidence relating to Laura Pettitte, the wife of Clemens’ friend, Andy Pettitte. The wife allegedly was told by Pettitte that Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he used human growth hormone. When the prosecutors showed a video in which Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., referred to Pettitte’s conversation with his wife, Walton called for a bench conference and ultimately ordered a mistrial.

Walton will hold a Sept. 2 hearing to determine whether to hold a new trial.

Walton spoke to the jury and put the blame squarely on the Justice Department, saying “There are rules that we play by and those rules are designed to make sure both sides receive a fair trial.” He added that when the prosecutors broke those rules they denied Clemens the opportunity “to get a fair trial with this jury would be very difficult if not impossible.”

What is interesting that it does not appear Defense attorney Rusty Hardin objected when the video was shown and that it was the judge who picked up the violation. Whoever found it, it was a huge embarrassment. The government’s case is already highly controversial on issues of materiality and double jeopardy.

Source: CBS

24 thoughts on “Justice Department Forces Mistrial After Violating Court Order in Clemens Trial”

  1. mespo,

    “In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson

    Wasn’t Jefferson speaking of his penchant for drinking…….

    Take this one…

    “Upon the altar of God I pledge eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man ”
    — Thomas Jefferson

  2. Juris:

    “I think these trials are necessary to protect the integrity of the system (I know, sounds naive).”


    “In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson

    You’re in good company in your naiveté.

  3. I think these trials are necessary to protect the integrity of the system (I know, sounds naive). If some one commits perjury, they should be prosecuted. -Juris

    If someone commits war crimes they should be prosecuted.

  4. I must play devil’s advocate to most positions taken here regarding the prosecution of Clemens and Bonds. I think these trials are necessary to protect the integrity of the system (I know, sounds naive). If some one commits perjury, they should be prosecuted. I actually commend the justice department for prosecuting, with the obvious exception of the events that led to the mistrial, these high profile defendants. The justice department knew it would be a drop down drag out given the stakes and the amount of money the defendants had, but did not let that affect the decision to prosecute.

  5. Borowitz: Roger Clemens, celebrating his steroid case being declared a mistrial, throws car across parking lot.

  6. bmaz:

    How about objecting to the evidence and then moving for the mistrial? Perhaps you prefer to let in inadmissible evidence thereby waiving the objection and hoping all the while for sua sponte help from the Judge?

  7. Mespo as defense counsel, you do not want to be the one moving for mistrial if the court is already moving that way on their own; it impacts the subsequent decision as to whether double jeopardy prevents a retrial

  8. Mespo, good call.

    It looks to me like Clemons needs to spend his time between trials looking for a competent attorney.

  9. Clemens has always been a self important, hypocritical ass, as well as a great, great pitcher. Barry Bonds was a magnificent ballplayer who was surly to the press and so gained their enmity. Both of them were already Hall of Fame players before steroids entered the picture. As Frank led off and others followed these are “clown show trials,” with much hypocrisy added to the “sturm und drang” of great press coverage. Steroids are bad but highly prevalent in pro sports. Prior to steroids ballplayers like Willie Mays used amphetamines and admitted it later. football players were routinely injected with concoctions to remove pain and keep them playing,
    despite injuries that could have threatened their health.

    Today throughout football we have 350 pound linemen that can run the hundred in 4.5. Body building alone is not the cause. Pro Sports, though fascinating to hundreds of millions, including myself, is a business riddled with hypocrisy and players shortening their lives and careers, through shortcuts, to make the big bucks. Yet we get schocked! Shocked I tell you, when disclosure of widespread “cheating” is revealed. Both Bonds and Clemens will be punished enough if they don’t make the Hall of Fame, the apex of a baseball career. We’ve exposed the problem, enough with the unneeded show trials that will signify nothing.

  10. “We have much bigger fish to fry…” (anon nurse)

    Which is why they keep trying to distracts us with this nonsense

    Hey babe, we may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night 😉

  11. I’ll second that, Blouise. (cluster-f**k — I love that word…)

    We have much bigger fish to fry…

  12. A mistrial is not “sanctions” . . . just a do over. The attorney who introduced the video should be held in civil contempt and a grievance filed with the bar.

  13. Frank,

    I agree with you on this…Why are me doing this? Congress has already wasted enough time…I am sure there are other governmental criminals to focus on..even Wall Street…but this is a total waste of time and resources….

    I think the Judge made the correct ruling….the government plays by loose and fast rules designed to obtain a guilty verdict…If they get a bad case and take a hit….if they take a hit all the way up the ladder to the Sct….and don’t win….they get the rules changed to assure a conviction the next time….Ever hear of a defendant being able to play like this…..

  14. great! more money & precious court time wasted – can we please have a new trial so this clown show can go on to its ugly conclusion? Even if convicted what has the government or society gained?

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