Arguments end on rape shield law
How much must a jury know, or need to know, about Kobe Bryant’s alleged victim to give each side a fair trial?
Bryant’s attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, asked District Judge Terry Ruckriegle to declare Colorado’s rape shield law unconstitutional. At the same time, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill making the state’s rape shield even tougher.
Haddon told Ruckriegle the law creates a double standard ” that information about a defendant’s previous behavior can be admitted, while an accuser’s cannot. Haddon called it “fundamentally unfair.”
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert countered that the law provides a procedure and does not lower the level of reasonable doubt prosecutors must prove to get a conviction.
“It keeps out irrelevant and highly inflammatory information,” said Hurlbert. “It gives protection to a class of victims that did not have it before. They need greater protection against public fishing expeditions into their past sexual history.”
Ruckriegle appeared to take some of the wind out of the defense’s argument when he reminded attorneys for both sides that the prosecution did not intend to bring up any of Bryant’s behaviors before the night of the June 30, 2003, incident.
Who’s called what?
Haddon asked that the parties in the case be called by “content neutral” titles, or by their names, citing two reasons. First, he said the fundamental premise of a defendant being considered innocent until a jury finds otherwise ” and until then, there is no victim. Second, he said it flies in the face of that presumption of innocence and that certain titles, such as “defendant” or “victim,” could prejudice a jury’s decision-making.
Hurlbert said the law is clear in defining a victim in court as someone who alleges a sexual assault has occurred.
“The defense’s motion presupposes that Eagle County people are not that bright and cannot set that aside and hear the the evidence,” said Hurlbert, who added that calling the alleged victim by her name strips her of her anonymity and revictimizes her.
Haddon called that argument “overblown,” and said no case law requires a sexual assault victim to be referred to as a “victim.”