WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors tried relentlessly — but failed miserably — to transform pitching superstar Roger Clemens into a disgraced icon of baseball's stubborn doping scandal when a jury took barely 10 hours to acquit the retired 49-year-old multimillionaire on all six counts that he lied to Congress about the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The speed of the decision Monday by the jury of eight women and four men took Clemens and his lawyers by surprise at the outset of the 10th week of tedious proceedings that featured 46 witnesses from the prosecution and defense.
Clemens was exercising with his sons near the Washington Monument shortly after 4 p.m. when word reached him that the jury had reached a decision after the first full day of deliberations.
Clemens, an intimidating 6-foot, 4-inch powerhouse known as the Rocket for a fastball that helped him win 354 games and strike out 4,672 batters in 24 seasons, teared up at a post-trial news conference within sight of Capitol Hill where his legal troubles began.
"I put a lot of hard work into that career," Clemens said. "And so again I appreciate my teammates who came in and all the emails and phone calls. Thank y'all very much."
Clemens thanked his family, called his wife Debbie "a rock" and praised former teammates and associates for stepping forward to testify on his behalf during a trial that spotlighted testimony by his wife, chief accuser Brian McNamee and McNamee's estranged wife Eileen.
Clemens choked up and stopped speaking for 20 seconds to collect himself as he thanked "the media guys who know me" from an illustrious career highlighted by seven Cy Young Awards and 11 All-Star selections.
Clemens' chief defense lawyer Rusty Hardin said the verdict vindicated Clemens' claims of innocence.
"It got to where people thought arrogant — a man saying, 'I didn't do it,' " the famed Houston defense attorney said. "Hopefully, when a man says he didn't do it, (people) will start giving him the benefit of the doubt."
Hardin admonished Clemens' critics "who made up their minds before there was a trial" to now "back up" and reconsider their views. Clemens always believed using anabolic steroids or human growth hormone was "cheating and contrary to his entire career," Hardin said.
"Justice won out," he said.
The prosecution team, including two lawyers who triggered a mistrial last year by introducing excluded evidence, said in a terse statement it respected the verdict.
"The jury has spoken in this matter and we thank them for their service," the prosecution team said.
Clemens mounted a successful multimillion-dollar defense to defeat six felony charges of lying to Congress that carried maximum cumulative penalties of up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
The charges stemmed from Clemens' sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008 where the retired veteran of four teams adamantly denied receiving injections of anabolic steroids or human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001 from McNamee, his long-time strength and conditioning coach.
Clemens' trial featured sharp contrasts between Justice Department prosecutors whose humorless, monotonous approach matched the charcoal grey of their business suits, and the freewheeling, high-energy style of Hardin, who stood out in light-colored suits and colorful ties.
Clemens' defense team hammered away at the cost and scope of prosecutor's inquiry on behalf of Congress, playing into anti-Congress sentiment that had surfaced during lawyers' questioning of prospective jurors beginning April 16.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a former criminal court judge and prosecutor in Harris County for more than two decades, faulted the Justice Department's priorities.
"It had no business investigating an issue that should have been left in the hands of Major League Baseball in the first place," Poe said. "Now, millions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered because of opportunists who have attempted to target and punish a successful American and baseball legend. The Department of Justice has real crimes that it should be investigating."
Clemens chose not to testify in his own defense, leaving his case in part to testimony by his wife Debbie and Eileen McNamee, the estranged wife of Clemens' chief accuser who helped undercut the credibility of the pitcher's former strength coach.
Clemens also benefited from reasonable doubt sowed by his lawyers about the origin of steroids and his DNA on medical waste retained by McNamee for seven years in a crumpled beer can. In addition, Clemens was helped by testimony from his long-time protege and one-time teammate Andy Pettitte, who said there was only a 50-50 chance that he accurately recalled Clemens confiding in 1999 or 2000 that he had used human growth hormone.
Around the majors
BLUE JAYS: Right-hander Kyle Drabek, who has a sprained UCL in his pitching elbow, will have elbow ligament replacement surgery today for the second time and is out for the season.
BREWERS: Right-hander Shaun Marcum was scratched from his start tonight because of tightness in his pitching elbow.
CARDINALS: Leftfielder Matt Holliday told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he has been dealing with a hip flexor condition since last month. He is not expected to go on the disabled list.
CUBS: Right-hander Ryan Dempster went on the 15-day disabled list with tightness in his right lat muscle. Dempster, who has a 2.11 ERA and has been subject of trade speculation, said it's a minor issue.
RANGERS: Outfielder Josh Hamilton missed his fourth straight game with an intestinal virus that hospitalized him Friday.
REDS: Third baseman Scott Rolen, out since May 12 because of a sore right shoulder, was activated from the 15-day disabled list. Reserve Kristopher Negron was optioned to Triple A Louisville.
RED SOX: Outfielder Cody Ross, who has been out since mid May with a fractured left foot, is expected to be activated from the disabled list today.
WHITE SOX: Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins, the 13th overall pick in the draft, agreed to terms, reportedly for the recommended slot bonus of $2.475 million.