Alleged victim won’t testify at Bryant prelim
The Eagle County woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape won’t have to testify at next week’s preliminary hearing, a judge ruled Thursday.
Eagle County Court Judge Fred Gannett issued a series of rulings that appears as nearly a clean sweep for the district attorney.
“We hope this will minimize her trauma in this legal process,” said district attorney spokeswoman Krista Flannigan.
Gannett’s ruling excuses Bryant’s alleged victim from testifying at the preliminary hearing. He also ruled that the preliminary hearing is to be open to the public and the press, and that there will be accommodations for additional media in an adjoining courtroom for an audio feed.
“The ruling came down absolutely as expected,” said local attorney Bruce Carey.
Gannett said testimony from the alleged victim is not necessary to decide whether there is enough evidence to send Bryant to trial. He ruled that testimony from Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Doug Winters should be sufficient for him to make his decision whether to send the case on to District Court for trial.
“The preliminary hearing is not a mini trial, and is not to be used as a discovery device by either side,” wrote Gannett. “It is not necessary at this stage of the proceedings that the prosecution show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a crime; nor is it necessary to show the probability of the defendant’s conviction.”
The standard of proof is low at the preliminary hearing stage to send a case to District Court for trial.
Also Gannett passed on to District Court the defense attorneys’ requests for Bryant’s alleged victim’s medical records. Gannett reasoned that the District Court will have to live with the decision, so that’s where the decision should be made. District Court is also where the decision will be made about whether the records will be admitted at the trial.
It’s not over, or open, yet
Gannett scheduled two status conferences for next week, one Tuesday morning and one at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, just 45 minutes before the preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin.
At the Thursday conference with Gannett, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Bryant’s defense attorneys Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon will hammer out the final details on what will be presented at that day’s preliminary hearing.
It’s also where Gannett will make his final decision on whether some, or all of the preliminary hearing will be closed – depending on the evidence to be presented. Right now, the preliminary heading is scheduled to be open to the public. In his ruling, Gannett reserved the right to change that.
It’s also possible that as late as just prior to the beginning of that preliminary hearing, Bryant’s attorneys could decide to waive the preliminary hearing and go straight to trial.
Both of those decisions – the defense’s decision whether to waive the preliminary hearing, and Gannett’s final decision whether to close some or all of it – won’t be made until after that Thursday conference.
No matter whether the preliminary hearing is waived and the proceeding becomes a simple bond hearing, Gannett said Bryant is required to show up next Thursday. Bryant, who faces up to life in prison on his sexual assault charge, is free on $25,000 bond. He currently is in preseason training camp in Hawaii with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The evidence: what’s in, what’s out
Hurlbert’s presentation of evidence will be more abbreviated than he recently described. He will put Det. Doug Winters on the stand, who will lay out some of the evidence, including summaries of the alleged victim’s statements, witness testimony and physical evidence. Besides Winters’ testimony, the district attorney will also present photographs of the alleged victim’s injuries. Gannett must still rule on whether or not those photographs will be available to the public, or whether they’ll be sealed.
The district attorney had planned to present a videotaped statement by the alleged victim, as well as an audio tape recorded while sheriff’s investigators were questioning Bryant the evening after he allegedly raped the 19-year-old Eagle woman.
That video tape and audio tape won’t be played at the preliminary hearing.
In his ruling on that matter, Gannett expressed concern that the unedited audio and video tapes could prejudice potential jurors.
“The court, at a status conference, expressed its concern that the unedited video and audio that the unedited video and audio tapes would contain similar irrelevant and prejudicial material as was contained in the sealed affidavits,” wrote Gannett.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told Gannett that he would withdraw the tapes from the prosecution’ presentation, in the event the preliminary hearing remains open. That leaves the still photographs of the alleged victim’s injuries and Winters’ testimony to present next Thursday.
Gannett wrote that the video and audio tapes include evidence that goes beyond the evidence necessary for him to make a decision whether to bind the case over for trial. He said that information may be prejudicial to Bryant’s right to a fair trial.
Beyond that, local attorneys said the tapes might not help either side’s case.
“Prosecutors learned from the Rodney King case that you don’t want your star witness’ performance broken down frame by frame on national television,” said local attorney David Lugert. “You don’t want endless analysis of every eyelash twitch.”
And defense attorneys might not want something floating around for months in the public consciousness that indicates what Bryant might have done.
Judge Gannett’s ruling
– The woman Kobe Bryant allegedly raped won’t have to testify at the preliminary hearing.
– Gannett deferred a decision to District Court about whether the alleged victim’s medical records will be provided to defense attorneys. Gannett reasoned that since the District Court will have to live with the decision, it should make the decision.
– The preliminary hearing is to be open to the public and the press. There will also be an additional courtroom with an audio feed to accommodate some of the media who did not get a seat in Gannett’s courtroom. Absolutely no video or audio recording devices will be allowed. It’s still not final, though. Gannett won’t decide whether to close some, or all of the preliminary hearing, and defense attorneys won’t make a final decision whether to waive the preliminary hearing until they finish a conference next Thursday morning.