For the second week in a row, an unexpected outcome in a trial that attracted intense national coverage has drawn the public’s eyes to U.S. legal procedures.

Earlier this month, Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a Florida jury after being charged with murdering her daughter. The resulting outcry was heard from coast to coast, with some jurors going into hiding.

Last week, the surprise came from the presiding judge on just the second day of the perjury trial of former Red Sox and Yankees pitching ace Roger Clemens, the only player ever to win seven Cy Young awards.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial after the prosecution showed a video of a hearing that included a reference to testimony Walton had ruled inadmissible in court.

Mistrials are huge events in cases of this magnitude, where gathering evidence and preparing a defense can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s not clear whether prosecutors will seek a new trial, as that decision has been put off until September.

If they don’t, Clemens will have escaped paying a significant legal penalty for his alleged use of anabolic steroids to enhance his performance on the mound — just as former San Francisco Giants home-run ace Barry Bonds dodged a major conviction three months ago in a mistrial after a jury couldn’t agree on a verdict on the most serious charges he faced in a steroid-related case.

But neither player has escaped fatal damage to his personal and professional reputation.

Clemens had been accused of lying to Congress about his drug use, and prosecutors planned to use testimony from former teammate Andy Pettitte to convict him. But when prosecutors opened their case with video from Congress that included a direct reference to statements by Pettitte’s wife that Walton had ruled were hearsay,, the judge said the jury had been compromised and tossed out the case.

Still, it may not matter much whether Clemens goes back to court. Consider the fate of former baseball star Pete Rose, known as “Charlie Hustle” for his aggressive play. His illegal gambling as a manager ruined his reputation — and his prospects for the Hall of Fame — independent of any court ruling. The same holds true for Barry Bonds and steroids, and the taint will follow Roger Clemens forever as well.

That jury — the one making decisions in the court of public opinion — has already brought in its verdict.


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