I don’t often admit this – and I hope you won’t hold it against me – but in “real” life I am a lawyer. So, while the baseball fan in me has wanted to avoid anything and everything dealing with the Roger Clemens trial, for many of the same reasons William voiced earlier, my inner law nerd can’t help but find it a bit fascinating. With Andy Pettitte testifying over the last two days, my attention to the case has heightened and (unsurprisingly) I have found the bulk of the media’s commentary to be far more useless than Pettitte’s testimony. In fact, if anyone is to blame for Pettitte’s testimony being a far cry from the nail in Roger Clemens’ coffin, it is the prosecution for calling him – but more on that in a second.
During law school I had the pleasure of working for the Public Defender’s office in Cleveland. I loved working there and met some amazing people who taught me quite a bit more than many of my law professors. One of the first things I learned, however, is that following legal proceedings in the media can be incredibly exasperating for those of us who know what is actually going on. This is doubly true when you deal with criminal cases, where the media does little to preserve the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.” It used to drive me crazy reading articles about cases I was working on that were so woefully misguided or biased, but I understood that I was privy to information that the general public and the media did not have access to, due to my job and my education. Reading many of the reactions to Pettitte’s testimony has given me some flashbacks to those frustrations.
When a case like the Roger Clemens’ perjury trial comes around it is important to weed out a lot of the articles written by sports reporters with no legal background. Some, through no fault of their own, are in over their heads trying to cover the game of law instead of the game of baseball. Make no mistake – litigation is definitely a game and it is not kind to rookies who are still trying to get a handle on the intricacies involved. Others are merely looking for the most scandalous headline to sell their papers or get more traffic to their websites, often considering facts as optional or irrelevant Luckily, there seem to be more and more lawyers writing about sports these days (it keeps us sane amidst either the great insanity or boredom that surround many of us – depending on our practices). Craig Calcaterra is one such person, and has a great post about Andy Pettitte’s testimony today.
Calcaterra points out very clearly (and with the appropriate attached legal documentation one would expect from competent counsel) that if Roger Clemens is found innocent it is not because his old pal Andy Pettitte lied or conveniently forgot about a decades old conversation. In fact, it is because the prosecution either 1) did not do their homework or 2) thought that bringing in a close teammate of Clemens, who has admitted to using HGH on two occasions, would outweigh his own testimony. I suspect the prosecution’s decision to use Pettitte’s testimony had more to do with the latter of these two options. I hope that is true, after all, as I would hate to think that they have wasted our tax money by being so incompetent at their jobs that they failed to know what one of their key witnesses would say. They are also in a tough spot, as Brian McNamee has proven to be far from a reliable character and the defense should have plenty of ammunition to use when he takes the stand.
During his 2008 Congressional testimony, Pettitte stated that he had thought Clemens admitted to using HGH during a conversation they had in 1999. He also testified that in 2005 he had another conversation with Clemens where Roger stated that Andy misunderstood him in 1999 and that it had actually been Clemens’ wife who had used HGH. We can debate all day whether Clemens lied to Pettitte in 2005 about their earlier conversation and whether he lied to Congress, but let’s save that for another day. Pettitte’s testimony this week was completely consistent with his prior testimony, and as Calcaterra states, “it was freely available to the prosecution and the defense for the past four years. They all knew that Pettitte was going to say that he was unsure about Clemens’ 1999 comments after he heard what he heard in 2005.”
In fact, this information is available to the public, which includes the many members of the media who have rushed to write, comment or insinuate that Pettitte is flip-flopping or changing his testimony to cover for his old pal Roger. Take the NY Daily News’ blatantly wrong headline “Andy Pettitte backs off prior testimony on Roger Clemens’ HGH use, admits it’s ’50-50′ that he may have misunderstood Rocket.” The article goes on to state that Andy contradicted his 2008 testimony – nope, sorry, try again Daily News!
Yahoo! Sports’ headline rivaled the Daily News, however, as it states that “Andy Pettitte helps old pal Roger Clemens’ steroid case by backpedaling on the witness stand.” In an article that focused far more on how often Pettitte did not look at Clemens during his testimony, Les Carpenter doesn’t so much insinuate that Pettitte just committed perjury for his friend, as he just barely avoids stating it outright (let’s hope he at least knows a thing or two about libel). In fact, Mr. Carpenter succeeds most at showing his absolute naivete of both the law and the facts surrounding this exact case.
I probably don’t need to say this, but Jon Heyman should never be trusted for any legal analysis (and should probably not be trusted for baseball analysis). His tweet about Pettitte “suddenly misremembering” his conversation with Clemens is beyond ridiculous, but really, who is surprised? There have been other similarly misleading headlines and ignorant tweets – and I would assume there will be more. After all, everyone loves a scandal. I think Calcaterra summed it up best when he points out that people who do this are “not only…dead wrong, but they’re doing a grave disservice to Andy Pettitte. The only man in this whole case who has been honest and consistent all along.”
Now enough of this, let’s watch some baseball!