DNA expert links needle, cotton swabs to Clemens
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A DNA expert in the perjury trial of Roger Clemens testified he matched the former pitching ace's genetic profile to articles of medical waste kept by the trainer who says he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs.
Prosecution witness Alan Keel, who works for Forensic Science Associates in California, said he found blood on a cotton ball and deposits he believed to be pus on another that matched the genetic profile of Clemens. He also said he found a handful of cells on a needle, which he attributed to Clemens.
"This genetic profile is compatible with Mr. Clemens," he said, referring to DNA found on the needle.
Keel said he was able to extract enough DNA from the waste, particularly the cotton balls, to establish a genetic profile matching that of Clemens.
"I would expect this profile to be unique to only one person that has ever lived on the planet," Keel said.
His testimony was an important piece of the government's case that the retired pitching star lied to a congressional panel when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
The crux of the government's argument has been a batch of medical waste turned in to authorities in 2008 by Brian McNamee, Clemens' former strength and conditioning trainer, who says he personally injected Clemens with the drugs.
Clemens, 49, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner as best pitcher, is being tried for a second time on federal charges of lying in 2008 to the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which was investigating drug use in Major League Baseball. His first trial ended last year in a mistrial.
RAISING DOUBTS ABOUT THE NEEDLE
Clemens' lawyer, Michael Attanasio, attacked what he called "weak" evidence linking Clemens to the needle, which a forensic analyst said on Thursday had tested positive for steroids.
Keel said he had extracted between six and 12 cells from the needle that would match the genetic profile of one in 449 Caucasians in the United States.
"That's a pretty weak statistic in your field," Attanasio said.
Attanasio's attempts to cast doubt on the DNA expert's connection between the needle and Clemens were enough to prompt jurors to submit almost half a dozen questions regarding his conclusions.
But Keel argued the evidence was enough.
"We have two cotton balls and the needle, and then we have a statistic. The material in the needle is only found in one in 450 (people). That means Mr. Clemens is the likely source of that biology," Keel said.
Attanasio also pressed Keel on whether the cotton balls matched to Clemens could have taken on his DNA after being stuffed into a beer can.
The two cotton balls had been in a Miller Lite beer can along with needles, gauze and a broken steroid ampoule. McNamee said Clemens gave him the beer can in 2002.
"Have you ever drank a beer from a can?" the defense lawyer asked. "Isn't it accurate that ... there is liquid at the bottom of the can that ... would be beer and saliva from the mouth?"
"It's not implausible," Keel said.
When asked by a prosecutor if he saw evidence the cotton balls had been "exposed to a bunch of beer," Keel replied that the stains on them would have diffused, which, he said, had not occurred.
Prosecutors said they had at least two more witnesses to call. Clemens' lawyers said they would begin presenting their case next Tuesday.
(Reporting by Lily Kuo; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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