Attention on Evidence Shifts to Testing for Fingerprints


Brian McNamee gave federal investigators needles, syringes, gauze pads and vials he hoped would support his case.

February 26, 2008

Attention on Evidence Shifts to Testing for Fingerprints

One of the more intriguing elements in the confrontation between Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee has been whether the needles, syringes, gauze pads and vials that McNamee turned over to federal authorities contain Clemens’s DNA or traces of steroids or human growth hormone.

What has not received the same amount of attention is whether any of those used items or the eight vials of unused steroids that McNamee also turned over to authorities contain Clemens’s fingerprints. If they do, that fact could bolster McNamee’s assertions that he injected Clemens with steroids or H.G.H. on at least 16 occasions between 1998 and 2001.

In January, McNamee gave the items — some of which he said he had kept in his home since 2001 — to federal investigators, who have sent the materials for testing. McNamee also handed over the eight unused vials of steroids, which he said Clemens had kept in his New York apartment until he gave them back to McNamee as he prepared to return home to Houston at the end of the 2002 season.

Lawyers familiar with the case said federal investigators would undoubtedly look for fingerprints from Clemens as well as traces of his DNA. Still, when McNamee’s lawyers first revealed that McNamee had turned over physical evidence to federal authorities, much of the attention was on the DNA issue; the issue of potential fingerprints — an old-fashioned concept compared to the high-tech nature of DNA testing — was largely ignored, except by bloggers.

Clemens has denied using performance-enhancing drugs. He has said that McNamee did inject him, but only with vitamin B12 and the painkiller lidocaine, an assertion McNamee has denied.

If Clemens’s DNA is found on any of the syringes, needles, gauze pads or vials, he could conceivably argue that it stemmed from B12 or lidocaine injections. If traces of both his DNA and steroids or H.G.H. are discovered, Clemens could argue that the evidence was tampered with and that the drug traces were added after the injections were given.

And the fact that the evidence was in McNamee’s possession for so long would allow critics, or Clemens, to raise questions about tampering.

In fact, forensic experts said it would be easy for Clemens to attack the credibility of the evidence if it relied on traces of his DNA. Refuting the presence of a fingerprint would be a more difficult task.

Erin Murphy, a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on forensic evidence, said it was not difficult to plant a person’s DNA on an object that person had not touched. She said the argument that DNA evidence had been tampered with was often made in similar cases.

"Especially with someone like a trainer who is around an athlete who may be bleeding, it would not be hard to spread someone’s DNA all over the place," Murphy said. "It is much more difficult to get someone’s fingerprint on something without them knowing and makes it harder to refute he didn’t handle these things."

If a Clemens fingerprint is found on a vial of steroids, it would not prove that Clemens had used the substance, but it would show that he had come in contact with the vials and raise new questions about his denials.

Richard Emery, one of McNamee’s lawyers, said McNamee gave Clemens an undisclosed number of unused steroid vials in 2001; it was from that batch, Emery said, that Clemens returned the eight unused vials to McNamee at the end of the 2002 season.

"Brian is not sure what Clemens did with the vials but they were in his possession," Emery said. "Prosecutors will be looking for prints on the vials. If his fingerprints are there, I don’t know how he can say his fingers weren’t on them."

Emery also said that Clemens’s fingerprints may be on the syringes.

"Although Brian supplied the syringes and they were kept at Roger’s apartment, he remembers the routine was such that Roger would handle the syringes," Emery said. "Roger would usually lay them out; he was very organized. The syringes may have been in plastic, or maybe Roger removed the plastic and touched them."

In a written statement Monday night, Rusty Hardin, Clemens’s lead lawyer, referred to the fingerprint issue as "a bunch of ‘what if’ speculation" and expressed the hope that any investigation would be allowed to run its "natural course."

"We would expect if the Department of Justice conducts an investigation, it would be a thorough and fair one," he added. "Does that mean that they would test items they were given for fingerprints? Of course, they would."


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