The New York Times has an article up this morning in which various legal experts talk about the differences between the Barry Bonds trial and the upcoming Roger Clemens trial. Both are for perjury and both are about steroids, but the folks the Times spoke with believe that the fact that Clemens is accused of lying to Congress might make things harder for the prosecutors. The harm — lying to an oddly politically-motivated Congress as opposed to a grand jury in the course of a criminal investigation — may seem more dubious to jurors, they say.
And then there’s the question of, well, the questions:
Michael N. Levy, another former prosecutor, said Clemens might have an advantage because members of Congress were not as skilled as federal prosecutors at questioning witnesses about criminal matters. As a result, his lawyers may be able to raise questions about whether Clemens really lied in response to imprecise questions.
That part seems nuts to me. The entire problem with the Bonds prosecution were the vague and rambling questions. Congress was awful at this when it came to the Sammy Sosa/Mark McGwire/Jose Canseco stuff — in my mind it’s Congress’ awful questioning which allowed Sosa to skate — but when Clemens was under oath he was asked multiple straight forward questions about his steroid use. And he gave multiple straight forward answers. Answers which were directly contradicted by Brian McNamee.
And while, yes, Brian McNamee has his own credibility issues — he’s primed for the always-wonderful “well, were you lying then or are you lying now, Mr. McNamee?” question — the fact that someone will take the stand and call Roger Clemens a liar when no one could do that to Bonds makes all the difference in the world. Enough difference to where I think Clemens is in way, way more trouble than Bonds, regardless of the identity of the people he lied to.