Despite appearances, it's not universally agreed that Pettitte's wavering is fatal to the government case.
"Today's perceived concession, which the defense will no doubt hype in closing, while somewhat beneficial, is frankly akin to the standard 'Law and Order'-type witness statement that a desired defense interpretation is 'possible,'" said Ty Cobb, another former federal prosecutor now in private practice. Cobb said Pettitte's testimony on balance had been important to the prosecution.
Clemens told Congress in 2008 that Pettitte "misremembers" or "misheard" their conversation, and that's one of the 15 alleged false and misleading statements listed under the charge of obstruction of Congress. In his congressional deposition, Clemens said he was blindsided when he learned that Pettitte had used HGH on a couple of occasions.
"Shocked. Shocked. When I first — when I first heard it, I said, 'No way.' I was shocked," Clemens said. He used the word "shocked" 10 times within 11 sentences.
After his testimony Wednesday, Pettitte signed a baseball in the hallway and left the courthouse in a black SUV without commenting, free to continue his comeback attempt with the New York Yankees.
Prosecutors did get a minor victory later Wednesday, when the judge allowed them to address in slightly greater detail the overall problem of performance-enhancing drug use in baseball to support Congress' involvement in the matter. Clemens' lawyers contend the 2008 hearing was a "show trial" of Clemens and not meant to serve a legislative purpose.
The government brought back congressional staffer Phil Barnett, whose testimony was interrupted Tuesday by Pettitte's arrival as a witness from out of town. Barnett, who was majority staff director of the committee that held the 2008 hearing, mentioned former major league stars Rafael Palmeiro and Chuck Knoblauch for the first time as players who have been associated with performance-enhancing drug use.