WASHINGTON — Andy Pettitte, the reluctant witness who was supposed to bolster the government's case against Roger Clemens, appeared instead to have substantially aided his former teammate and friend when he readily conceded he might have misunderstood their conversation about human growth hormone.
The doubt Pettitte acknowledged on cross-examination Wednesday sounded like a significant step back from his testimony the day before that "Roger had mentioned to me that he had taken HGH."
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is accused of lying to Congress in 2008 when he said he never used steroids or HGH.
Prosecutors had hoped Pettitte, with no apparent motive to lie, would reinforce a case that otherwise relies heavily on Brian McNamee, a former strength coach for both Pettitte and Clemens who says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone.
So Pettitte's concession weakens the prosecution's effort to prove Clemens guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, University of Iowa law professor James Tomkovicz said in an email.
"The prosecution's case seems to rest pretty heavily on Andy Pettitte's account, and if he is in genuine doubt about what Roger Clemens said to him, there would seem to be a good chance that the jurors will also be in doubt," Tomkovicz said.
Sounding more like a defense witness, Pettitte allowed that he could have misunderstood the conversation, said to have taken place in 1999 or 2000.
Is it fair to say there is a "50-50" chance that Pettitte misunderstood? Clemens' lawyer asked.
"I'd say that's fair," Pettitte replied.
After Pettitte's testimony, the defense asked the judge to strike it. The defense will file a brief to support its position.
The trial resumed Thursday with the second day of testimony from federal agent Jeff Novitzky, who helped spearhead drugs-in-sports investigations — including those of baseball's Barry Bonds and star cyclist Lance Armstrong — first while working for the Internal Revenue Service and now at the Food and Drug Administration.