Commentary

A pretty but possibly costly picture

Testimony by Clemens' wife may distract jury even as it contradicts accuser

Updated: June 8, 2012, 4:18 PM ET
By Lester Munson | ESPN.com

WASHINGTON -- Debbie Clemens was supposed to be one more weapon in the attack on Brian McNamee's veracity when she continued her testimony Friday. She was part of an onslaught that began nine weeks ago on the first day of the Roger Clemens perjury trial, an assault that will continue until the moment the jury begins to deliberate its verdict.

Debbie did manage to contradict her husband's former trainer and chief accuser on a few things, but she also gave the jury of eight women and four men a glimpse into her life with Roger and their four sons that could alienate some jurors:

Two maids. One nanny. Six bedrooms in their mansion with another in the pool house. Ten bathrooms, with two more in the pool house and the separate gym building.

[+] EnlargeDebbie Clemens, Roger Clemens
Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesFormer All-Star baseball pitcher Roger Clemens' wife, Debbie, gave testimony Friday that sought to contradict trainer Brian McNamee's claims, but it could have a mixed effect on the jury.

And this list was just the beginning. As Debbie described an HGH episode with McNamee, the family's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, displayed photos of the master bedroom and master bathroom, two mammoth spaces that featured elaborate moldings, custom carpets, an enormous circular bathtub and marble everywhere.

With a smile on her face, she described her family as a "corporation with six schedules" and told the jury she worried about the family's "brand."

As Hardin introduced a day of golf that helps contradict a McNamee claim, he asked Debbie about her golf game:

"What is your handicap?"

"I am a 10.4."

"What's Roger's handicap?"

"It's a five. He'll say it's a seven. You should give him a six."

That is a cute bit of patter that may charm a group of country club golfers. Debbie thought so and laughed quietly to herself. But it left the jurors staring at her and possibly wondering what she was talking about.

As she continued with her description of a golf outing in South Florida, it was important for the defense to offer solid proof that Roger and Debbie were on the golf course and could not have been at a pool party at the home of Jose Canseco. McNamee said he saw Roger Clemens and Canseco in a serious discussion at the pool party. Clemens is charged with perjury in part for stating under oath to the U.S. Congress that he was not at Canseco's house during the party.

To show that it was impossible for either of the Clemenses to be at the party, Hardin showed Debbie a receipt from the pro shop at the country club where they played golf on the day of the party. The receipt showed that she purchased a couple of shirts and a pair of socks for $265. It may have proved a point, but it also showed the jurors that the Clemens family was not shopping for bargains at Target.

Debbie made the purchases, the receipt showed, at 8:50 a.m. on the day of the party. She explained that the round of golf and lunch would have lasted until 2:30 p.m., allowing them to arrive at the Canseco house only after the pool party had ended -- and after McNamee had departed on a team bus for a game that night.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Saleski, in an artful cross-examination, asked about receipts from the round of golf and the lunch. There are no receipts, Debbie replied, indicating either that she and Roger could not locate the receipts or, more likely, they were guests of the club and paid nothing for the golf and lunch.

A final look at the world of Debbie and Roger came later on Friday when another Clemens attorney, Michael Attanasio, asked an FBI agent whether he was aware that elite athletes such as Clemens were accustomed to withdrawing $8,000 or $9,000 in cash from their bank accounts.

Although the jurors may find the glimpses of the Clemens world more memorable than the substance of Debbie's testimony, she did manage to contradict McNamee and inflict some serious damage to his credibility.

McNamee told the jury four weeks ago that Roger asked him to give Debbie a shot of HGH to prepare for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot and watched McNamee administer the injection.

Debbie said her use of HGH was prompted by a front-page feature in USA Today on Nov. 11, 2000, and Roger was away when she asked McNamee to give her the injection. She contradicted every detail of McNamee's version, explaining that the photo shoot was two years after the USA Today article and the injection.

All of this was helpful to the defense in its relentless attack on McNamee, but Debbie may have taken it a step too far when she also told the jury that "I didn't think that [HGH] was a bad thing."

Prodded gently by the prosecutor, she added, "It's not like taking heroin. I am not ashamed of taking that shot. I am embarrassed that it went across the world incorrectly."

Debbie did her job, but it may have come at some cost. A master trial lawyer such as Hardin knew that Debbie's testimony would give the jury a snapshot of a life of unimaginable wealth. It was a tough call, but he must have made the strategic decision that destroying McNamee was more important than risking the alienation of a few jurors.