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.”
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?
Was he vindicated?
Source: USA Today
Graphic: UVT Blog
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