Attorneys in Bryant case battle over evidence
Much of the information the jury will use to make that decision is being fought over Monday and today in District Court. Legal experts say it comes down to two basic questions:
1. Do Bryant’s defense attorneys get his alleged victim’s medical records?
2. Is there other evidence, such as possibly incriminating statements Bryant uttered to police investigators, and will it be admissible?
Bryant is scheduled to be back in District Court at 8 a.m. today as attorneys cross swords in a battle that will go a long way in answering those questions and determining if Bryant’s future will be played out on a basketball court or a prison cell.
Kobe Bryant may even be asked to testify today as attorneys argue over evidence that could be used against him.
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Local attorney David Lugert, who has been helping cover the Bryant case for network television, explained that Bryant may be called upon to give his version of events of the night Eagle County sheriff’s investigators questioned him for 75 minutes. Investigators were looking for information about the rape allegations that have landed him in court. That interview was tape-recorded.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert wants the jury to hear it.
Defense attorney Pamela Mackey wants it thrown out.
In today’s suppression hearings, defense attorneys Mackey and Harold Haddon will contend that Bryant was improperly in custody without having been properly advised of his Miranda rights.
“If he made incriminating statements, and he made those statements voluntarily, those kinds of statements from the mouth of the accused can speak as loudly or louder than any of the physical evidence the police may have collected,” said Lugert. “One of the keys is whether his decision to talk to them was the product of his own free and unconstrained choice, or was it the product of some sort of coercion?”
Bryant could testify
Lugert explained that Bryant could be called to help District Judge Terry Ruckriegle decide whether Bryant was actually in custody. Under Colorado law, someone is considered in custody when they find themselves in a position that a reasonable person would no longer feel free to leave.
“It’s typical for a defendant to testify about things like the tone, demeanor and positioning in the room of the police, and the availability of the exits,” said Lugert. “The version you get from the defendant is understandably much different from that of the police.”
Mackey is also asking Ruckriegle to throw out some of the physical evidence collected by investigators that night, especially the clothes Bryant gave them. Among other things, Mackey asserts the warrant was not properly served. Colorado requires warrants be served during daylight hours, unless otherwise stipulated by the judge issuing the warrant.
“I believe he (Bryant) will testify,” said Lugert. “That testimony could not be used against him later in the case. From the prosecution’s perspective, it would render Bryant unable to change his story in any way between now and when he testifies during the trial.”
Besides the illness he said he suffered Monday, Bryant also had to have several stitches in his right index finger last week. He told the Los Angeles Lakers he suffered the injury while moving boxes in his garage.
Along with the possibility of Bryant’s testimony, Ruckriegle has ordered law enforcement officers involved with the case to testify today, including three undercover agents from the High Country Drug Task Force. The narcotics agents were called in to help investigate. Drugs are not involved with the case. Also ordered to testify are Bryant’s bodyguards who accompanied him from California to Colorado, a trip he made June 30 to have his right knee operated on at Vail Valley Medical Center. Bryant spent the night of June 30 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, where he allegedly raped a 19-year-old Eagle woman in his hotel suite, Room 35. He claims the sex was consensual.
To help protect the identity of those undercover agents, along with their personal safety and any cases they may be working on, Ruckriegle ordered that they enter and leave the courtroom through a side door, and be sequestered in a private room.
Ruckriegle ordered that a screen be placed between them and the audience. He also barred the courtroom sketch artist from drawing their images.
That part of today’s hearings will be open to the public. After that, most of the rest of the day is expected to be closed, said courts administrator Karen Salaz.
Monday’s proceedings were held entirely in private, dealing largely with the alleged victim’s medical records and patterns of behavior leading up to the June 30 incident.
The parade of six witnesses who testified was concluded by the alleged victim’s mother. These witnesses were all family, friends and acquaintances of the alleged victim from Eagle County and Greeley, where the alleged victim attended college last year.
Those witnesses originally appeared Dec. 19 for the first motions hearing, including her mother, who testified last, late in the afternoon.
As dozens of journalists milled around at one end of the Justice Center hall all day, the witnesses were kept sequestered at the other end, in sight but inaccessible.
All day those witnesses were escorted into the courtroom one at a time to testify before prosecutors, defense attorneys and Ruckriegle. Some took a few minutes; some took more than hour. When they were finished, each one turned and marched out the door.
The Kobe Bryant show went on without Kobe Bryant Monday, after his attorneys told the judge he was too sick to appear in the hearing.
Because Monday’s proceedings were held entirely in private, Bryant was not required to be there and could be excused by Judge Ruckriegle. Because today’s hearing is open to the public, it is considered a bond appearance and Bryant is required to be present, explained district attorney’s spokeswoman Krista Flannigan.
If, however, Bryant is not recovered sufficiently from Monday’s illness to make it court, today’s hearings will be postponed.
Today’s hearing begins at 8 a.m. in the Eagle County Justice Center.
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