Pettitte Returns to the Stand

Charles E. Sutton | 5/8/2012, 11:07 a.m.

Credibility of Testimony Questioned

With two brief responses, Andy Pettitte brought into question the validity of his testimony against Roger Clemens, part of a deflating day for prosecutors in the retrial of the seven-time Cy Young award winner.

After fumbling its way to a mistrial of Clemens last year, the government is struggling again in the retrial - to the extent that the core of Pettitte's testimony might be thrown out. First, the judge criticized the questioning of Pettitte on May 2, then he ruled against prosecutors on another issue. Finally, he cried out: "you're taking positions that are totally absurd to me."

Pettitte, Clemens' former teammate and longtime friend, was on the stand for a second day in the trial that will determine whether Clemens lied at a 2008 congressional deposition and hearing when he denied using steroids and human growth hormone.

During cross-examination, Clemens' lawyers got exactly the answers they were looking for.

Might Pettitte have misunderstood when Clemens supposedly acknowledged using human growth hormone to Pettitte in a conversation during the 1999-00 offseason? "I could have," Pettitte replied. Is it fair to say there is a "50-50" chance that Pettitte misunderstood? "I'd say that's fair," Pettitte said.

The government attempted to salvage their witness, but prosecutor Steven Durham's follow-up questions were deficient - at least in the minds of Clemens' lawyers and, more importantly, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton. Clemens' lawyers moved to strike Pettitte's testimony regarding the 1999-2000 conversation as "insufficiently definitive."

The judge seemed to agree, openly wondering why the government didn't ask Pettitte for a current, definitive recollection of the conversation. He repeatedly scolded Durham, who was also a member of the government team last July when prosecutors showed the jury a small piece of inadmissible evidence, leading to the mistrial.

Another way of putting it, the jury might have concluded that maybe Pettitte did "misremember" the conversation, as Clemens has claimed.