Roger Clemens Was Acquitted, Not “Vindicated”

The first ethics breach is the utter incompetence of reporters who nonetheless are permitted to go on the air and mislead the public. A jury acquitted baseball great Roger Clemens  of 6 counts of perjury today, and I have just screamed in my car, frightening Rugby (my Jack Russell Terrier), after hearing three reporters on three radio stations say that Clemens was “vindicated.”

Incompetents. Ignoramuses.

Acquittal means that the prosecution was unable to prove that Clemens lied  when he testified to Congress, under oath, that he never took banned performance enhancing drugs as had been alleged, also under oath, by his former trainer, Brian McNamee. Prosecutors had to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, so when the prosecution’s star witness, Yankee pitcher and Clemens pal Andy Pettite, surprised the prosecution by saying (also under oath) that it was “50-50″ whether he had misunderstood Clemens to say that he had used Human Growth Hormone, that pretty much sealed the “not guilty” verdict. 50-50 is not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 70-30 is not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” 85-15 isn’t even “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Is it still very possible that Clemens was lying through his teeth? Of course.

It didn’t help the prosecution that McNamee is a proven liar himself. That doesn’t mean that he is lying about Clemens; nobody has come up with a plausible theory about why he would do that. But the fact that the trainer has a record of being untruthful in other settings also made the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard an impossible dream. If the jury’s verdict truly vindicated Clemens, then prosecutors would bring perjury charges against McNamee now, since if Clemens absolutely was telling Congress the truth, McNamee was absolutely lying. The verdict doesn’t mean that, however. The verdict means, “We aren’t sure what the heck happened.”

What is fair to Roger Clemens now? Your guess is as good as mine. He had a sudden resurgence late in his career, when everyone thought he was declining as an elite pitcher. That’s suspicious, for a baseball player in the steroid era. He employed a trainer of dubious character, McNamee, for many years, all the better to cheat with. That’s suspicious. His close friend, Pettite told Congress under oath that Clemens had admitted to taking HGH, and Clemens explained the presence of HGH in his home by explaining that his wife took it. Hmmmmm. There were details in Clemens’ testimony that turned out to be false, but nobody could prove that they were intentionally false. Is Clemens a liar? Probably. Is he cheater? Very possibly. Is he a perjurer? Maybe.

Should he have been acquitted?

Yes.

Was he vindicated?

No way.

_____________________________________

Source: USA Today

Graphic: UVT Blog

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

7 Comments

Filed under Character, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports

7 responses to “Roger Clemens Was Acquitted, Not “Vindicated”

  1. Mike Martin

    I would venture to say that there are a lot of issues in play here, none of which excuses the blockheadedness of the media in calling a “not guilty” verdict a vindication or a certification of innocence, or of thinking for a minute that the Rocket was clean on this.

    1. Perhaps some on the jury had trouble with the whole idea of the US Congress getting involved in a baseball issue when there are so many things in the country that could use their attention* (wars, terror, taxes, maybe a budget, judicial confirmations).

    2. Others may have had some trouble with the idea of Congress getting all excited about someone lying to them while they spend a goodly part of their time doing just that to the electorate.

    3. Then like you said, the witness goes sideways on the stand giving any juror who fell into category 1 or 2, above, the opening they needed — and they took it to the house.

    *The alternative position would be that by getting embroiled in the baseball matter the Congress was unable to do something, yet unknown, that would have done further damage someplace else.

  2. You’re such a cynic!
    Or, perhaps, the jury found it too dissonant to be convicting a baseball player of lying to Congress five years ago in a pointless hearing when the Attorney General has been doing it for months in a matter that resulted in at least one man, and probably more, losing his life.

  3. Eeyoure

    Clemens’ case makes it ever harder for me to decide who to root for, both on and off the playing fields. I guess I can say I feel this way: I have more faith in the Houston Astros winning the World Series this year, than I have in the prosecutors who labor on behalf of the Congress to be wiser anytime soon in picking and winning cases that result in more effectual beneficial impact on the public they ostensibly serve.

  4. Danielle

    My only experience with steroid use is watching an oversized baby that had stretch marks on his muscles yet was not strong and was afraid of every bug, bird, possible disease and catching a cold on Survivor. I still think that was all more about his personality than steroids. Also, I have never watched a baseball game I didn’t have a child playing in (and am grateful he decided baseball wasn’t for him so I didn’t have to watch many), I do wonder…. is there a scenario under which he is vindicated and what would that require of him?

  5. sp

    Third, Darrin Fletcher, who caught Clemens on the Blue Jays in 1998, implied that McNamee offered to inject him with B12. Fletcher added that he did not see Clemens at Jose Canseco’s pool party in 1998. Prosecutors assert that Clemens obstructed Congress when testifying that he was not at Canseco’s party; several witnesses, including McNamee, testified that he saw Clemens there. Fletcher’s testimony supplies uncertainty over whether Clemens was at the party. With “beyond reasonable doubt” as the standard for conviction, uncertainty can easily prevent a conviction.

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