Good Old-Fashioned Fingerprints

In the age of DNA analysis, fingerprint evidence seems a bit antiquated as a forensic tool. But, in the Roger Clemens–Brian McNamee saga, it could prove crucial. The main physical evidence in the case includes syringes and vials of unused steroids submitted by McNamee. The syringes, McNamee claims, ought to contain DNA and steroids or human growth hormone (for the evidence relating to Chuck Knoblauch). While this might seem like a silver bullet, the value of this evidence has been dismissed by experts. There is no way to prove when the substances were put in the in the syringes, and we know that McNamee had access to Clemens’s DNA.

However, fingerprints on some of these items would indicate that Clemens handled the materials in question. I do not think that fingerprints on the syringes are all that relevant, because Clemens admits to receiving B-12 injections from McNamee. However, fingerprints on the vials of steroids, which McNamee claims that Clemens gave him in 2002 could be damaging to Clemens, as they would represent the first physical connection to the drugs.

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.

The issue of fingerprints comes up in McNamee’s deposition, and I remember thinking this might be important. But the reason I remember it is that McNamee appears to have thrown away a key piece of evidence: the Ziploc bag that held the vials that Clemens allegedly gave to McNamee.

A [Sentence blacked out] Cleaning up, putting stuff away in boxes. He was cleaning out his bedroom. I was filling up a bag — a duffel bag that I still have that he gave me with stuff he didn’t want, some kids games, some clothing, some sneaker, some shirt, some athletic wear. And he just walked out of his bedroom and he says, listen, I’m not going to travel on the plane with these, can you either hold on to them or get rid of them.

Q So what did he physically hand you?

A A Ziploc bag full of that stuff.

Q So this was all in the bag?

A Absolutely.

Q So he would have touched the bag as he handed it to you?

Mr. Emery. Because the Ziploc bag was part of —

The Witness. He touched the bag, yeah.

Mr. Emery. The Ziploc bag was in there. We gave him the Ziploc bag. Sorry. It must be in one of the other pictures.

Mr. Schiliro. Isn’t it that one?

Mr. Emery. That is the bag that we just used so we wouldn’t touch it.

The Witness. The Ziploc bag is in there.

Mr. Emery. Yeah, there must be a Ziploc bag picture.

Mr. Schiliro. I’m confused because we have pictures from two different years; isn’t that correct?

Mr. Emery. Right. But we gave the Federal Government —

The Witness. Wait. No. No.

Mr. Ward. Let’s —

The Witness. No, no, I’ve got it. No. I emptied that — I emptied that stuff in another — in the box.

Mr. Emery. Right. The Ziploc bag was with the other stuff.

The Witness. Yeah. I physically removed the unused — I took the pills out and the testosterone bottles, the seven or eight bottles, put them in the can bag and threw all of those single wrapper needle heads in the bottom of the box. I didn’t keep that bag.

Mr. Emery. Right. You’re right.

Q You didn’t keep the Ziploc bag?

A That Roger gave me. No, I — because we were looking at that. We knew there wouldn’t be fingerprints on the bag.

Mr. Emery. Right. The bag that was in there was a different bag.

The Witness. That was my bag. It might have been his bag, but I only kept one bag. And it was the bag that the can was in, the can I had. The other stuff I emptied in.

Q So you have no expectation his fingerprints would be on any of these substances?

A Possibly, but, no, I ain’t counting on that. I’m counting on the blood and the needles and the stuff in the needles. (pp. 202–204)

And at this point, I expect Philiip Schirilo (Henry Waxman’s Chief of Staff) hung his head like an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow who just learned that the rare piece of furniture in front him of was refinished by a well-meaning great-uncle. Was this a mistake of honesty or convenience?

It will be interesting to learn what the fingerprint analysis reveals. Clemens’s attorney Rusty Hardin is not expressing concerns.

“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.”

One Response “Good Old-Fashioned Fingerprints”

  1. mike says:

    I don’t know if prints on the ziploc bag are that incriminating. Clemens could just claim that the bag held B12 and that McNamee simply put the steriod vials in the bag at a later point in an attempt to frame him.