Prosecutors Strike Out, Clemens Walks For Now

Judge Reggie Walton has declared a mistrial in the Roger Clemens case. Walton ruled that prosecutors had indelibly tainted Clemens' ability to get a fair trial by exposing the jury to inadmissible evidence. Clemens was on trial on charges of lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The perjury trial of former pitching star Roger Clemens has blown up. On just the second day of the trial, Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial. He says prosecutors indelibly tainted�Clemens' ability to get�a fair trial by exposing the jury to inadmissible evidence. It is not yet clear whether prosecutors will get a second chance.�NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg has our story this morning.

NINA TOTENBERG: A furious Judge Walton raised his usually calm voice in anger as he realized that�prosecutors had failed to�redact�video and transcripts shown to jurors, and failed as well to turn the video monitors off while he conferred with lawyers at the�bench.�

As a result, for several minutes, jurors could see quotes from the wife of pitcher Andy Pettitte, saying her husband had told her Clemens had admitted to him that he used human growth hormone. The judge had previously ruled that Mrs. Pettitte could not testify because she'd not heard the conversation herself. For his part, Clemens has said that Pettitte either misheard or misunderstood him.�

I do not see how I can unring this bell, said Walton. Because the prosecutors broke the rules, the ability of Mr. Clemens to get a fair trial with this jury would be very difficult, if not impossible.

It was the second such prosecutorial mistake in two days. Walton set September 2nd for a hearing on whether the prosecution can get a second bite at the apple. Normally, a mistrial does not prevent a retrial, but there are exceptions that are analogous to the rules for baseball pitchers when they hit a batter.

If the errant pitch is seen as a mistake, the pitcher remains in the game. If the umpire sees it as intentional, the pitcher is gone. In September, Judge Walton will determine whether the prosecution's mistakes were accidental or on purpose.�

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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