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The Meaning Of the Clemens Mistrial

Clemens and attorney

Whatever one thinks of Roger Clemens’ veracity (let alone possible steroid use), the idea that his criminal trial ends without a verdict because the prosecutors blatantly disregarded the court’s instructions by showing the jury inadmissible evidence is just astounding. Brings to mind former Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo’s famous question from the 1920s — should the suspect go free because the constable has blundered?

From the reports I’ve read, this was either incompetence or intentional overreaching, as the U.S. Attorneys’ office played in open court a videotape of congressional testimony in which a member read aloud portions of an affidavit (from Andy Petti’s wife) the court had declared — correctly, in my view — could not be used (at least not until rebuttal, if the defense attacked Pettit’s credibility). Astonishing. The meaning of this fiacso is that the government, no less and perhaps more than any other litigant, cannot under our American system of constitutional justice avoid its responsibilities to ensure fairness in criminal prosecutions.

Posted via email from glenn’s posterous.