WASHINGTON -- The expert called to help exonerate Roger Clemens barely made it to the stand. Once he did, he lambasted prosecutors for relying on the so-called "beer can evidence" to support their case against the former All-Star pitcher accused of perjury.
"If you submit garbage to the laboratory, more than likely you're going to get garbage on the end," forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger said.
With similar strong sentiments, repeated over and over, Goldberger testified Tuesday in the trial to determine whether Clemens lied to Congress in 2008 when denying he used steroids or human growth hormone.
Clemens' former strength coach, Brian McNamee, has testified that he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing substances in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and saved the needle and other waste from a steroids injection in 2001. McNamee says he put the evidence in and around a beer can found in a recycling bin and stored it for more than six years in a box in his house.
Prosecutors have produced experts who said they found Clemens' DNA on two cotton balls kept inside the can and a likely match for Clemens' DNA in a needle stored outside the can. Goldberger, director of the University of Florida's William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, was unflappable as he contested the integrity of the evidence: He offered equally strong opinions under cross-examination as he did under questioning from Clemens' lawyer.
Among his answers: "I think the government's conclusions are overreaching with regards to the interpretation of the evidence. ... The background in this case is you have evidence in a beer can that was in the possession of an accuser for six years. ... The weight of the evidence in this case is lacking because of the potential for contamination. ... The government's theory cannot be proven. You cannot exclude the theory of possible contamination."
The government nearly kept the jury from hearing any of it. Prosecutor Daniel Butler mounted a strong challenge to Goldberger's credentials as an expert witness. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton sounded ready to agree at one point: "He's being asked to give an opinion outside his expertise."
But Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin vehemently disagreed and eventually persuaded the judge to allow Goldberger to testify with certain limits. The best concessions the government could get from him were that he never tested the items himself and that he couldn't prove they were -- or weren't -- tainted, manipulated or contaminated.
In all, the day was a perfect microcosm of the trial. Lawyers twice spent more than an hour arguing over what a witness could or couldn't say. At least Goldberger ended up spending a decent amount of time on the stand. The day's first witness, broadcaster Joe Angel, ended up testifying in front of the jury for about five minutes about a topic the judge isn't sure is even relevant to the case.
Also, a new wrinkle was revealed in a trial that's already run way longer than expected: One of the jurors is leaving June 19 for a six-month trip to Germany. If the juror is excused, the final alternate would be added to the 12-person panel -- a cyclist and gym rat who said during jury selection that he knows people who have used steroids.
Clemens' lawyers don't appear to want that man deciding their client's fate. Hardin lobbied the judge to keep the Europe-bound juror on the panel, confident the trial will be over by then.
The defense hopes to rest by the end of this week, but the trial schedule is littered with partial days and off-days due to various schedule conflicts. Two days will be missed next week while the judge is out of town. Plus, Walton noted it's difficult to predict how long deliberations will take.
"The (John) Edwards case took eight or nine days," he said. "If that happens here, we're in real trouble."
Three jurors already have been dismissed, including two who were caught sleeping during the trial. Another juror has been suspected of sleeping, but she remains on the panel for now.
The trial, originally projected to last four to six weeks, is in its eighth week, and Angel's testimony was another frustrating exercise in the slow pace of justice. The defense wanted to ask him about comments he made during a pair of broadcasts of a series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Florida Marlins in 1998.
Angel's testimony has to do with whether Clemens attended a mid-day pool party at Blue Jays teammate Jose Canseco's house on June 9, 1998. Clemens said at his congressional deposition in February 2008 that he wasn't at Canseco's house that day. The government says that was a lie, one of 13 alleged Clemens' lies cited in the count charging him with obstructing Congress.
But the judge wanted to know what, if anything, the party has to do with whether Clemens used performance-enhancing substances. Prosecutor Steven Durham countered that both Congress and Clemens' lawyers had made the party a significant issue. McNamee said he saw Clemens and Canseco speaking with a third unknown man at Canseco's house that day, an incident that McNamee later associated with Clemens' alleged request for a steroids shot days later. The jury had heard earlier that Canseco was a known steroids user.
If Clemens wasn't at the party, Hardin has argued, that would call into question the overall credibility of the government's key witness.
Walton decided to keep the pool party in the trial, at least for now, but the lawyers weren't finished. They then went back and forth over the nature of Angel's testimony.
Eventually, it was decided that Angel, a broadcaster with the Marlins at the time, could say in front of the jury that he saw Clemens at a golf course between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. on June 9 -- hours before the Canseco party. He added, though, that it usually took up to 4½ hours to play a round of golf at that club.
The tapes of the broadcasts from the June 9-10 Blue Jays-Marlins games -- during which Angel referred to Clemens playing golf -- were never played before the jury. His actual testimony was shorter than many innings he's called in more than 30 years as a play-by-play announcer.
Also Tuesday, former pitcher Mike Boddicker testified that he saw Clemens get a shot in the buttocks from a vial labeled B12. He said it was likely given by an athletic trainer, in 1989 or 1990 when they were teammates with the Boston Red Sox. Prosecutors say that Clemens' claim that he received vitamin B12 injections from McNamee was a cover story for Clemens' use of steroids.
Also on the stand Tuesday was former New York Yankees and Houston Astros massage therapist Rohan Baichu, who said he gave Clemens regular massages from 1999-2006. He became the latest defense witness to say he never saw significant changes in Clemens' body and that Clemens' excellence at an advanced age resulted from a superb work ethic.
"Biologically, he was not 40," Baichu said. "He was younger, in my opinion."