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Clemens case goes to the jury

The dozen Washingtonians who will decide Roger Clemens' fate heard a day of closing arguments stuffed with attention-getting sound bites. The eight women and four men who mostly care little about baseball then began deliberations Tuesday that will impact one of the most successful pitchers of his generation -- and, in a way, the criminal pursuit of athletes accused of illegal doping.

"You," prosecutor Gil Guerrero told the jurors, "are the final umpires here."

They heard a clever line about Clemens being "a Cy Young baseball player" but not "a Cy Young witness." They heard the key witness called "a flawed man" who produced evidence from a "magic beer can." There were asked to debate whether it's "outrageous" that Clemens was charged in the first place, or whether it's a byproduct from Congress' "authority to protect the nation's youth."

Having digested the competing spins on 26 days of testimony by 46 witnesses, the jury met for some 15 minutes before being excused for the day at 5 p.m. They will reconvene this afternoon, then unless they reach a quick verdict, take off until Monday because of a long-scheduled out-of-town business trip by the judge.

Clemens is charged with perjury, making false statements and obstructing Congress when he testified at a deposition and at a nationally-televised hearing in February 2008. The heart of the charges center on his repeated denials that he used steroids and human growth hormone.

Clemens' chief accuser was his longtime strength coach, Brian McNamee, who spent more than a week on the stand and testified that he injected Clemens with both substances. But also essentially on trial was Congress' right to hold the hearings in the first place, and Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin spent part of his closing statement appealing to the notion that the U.S. government was way out of line.

"What's happened in this case," Hardin said, "is a horrible, horrible overreach by the government and everyone involved."

Guerrero argued that Congress had the right to care because Major League Baseball players are role models.

"They influence children. They influence kids. Congress has to be involved with that," Guerrero said in a packed federal courtroom that included Clemens' wife and four sons. "Congress has the authority to protect the nation's youth."

It's a debate that's timely following a pair of expensive Justice Department drugs-in-sports investigations that bore little fruit. More than seven years of probing yielded a guilty verdict on only one count of obstruction of justice last year against baseball's career home-run leader, Barry Bonds. A two-year, multicontinent investigation of cyclist Lance Armstrong was recently closed with no charges brought.