Battles continue in Bryant case
Nine witnesses trooped through District Judge Terry Ruckriegle’s Eagle courtroom Monday as the Kobe Bryant rape case entered a three-day stint of closed-door hearings.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense continued trying to convince Ruckriegle what the jury should and should not hear as it weighs whether to convict Bryant for allegedly raping a 19-year-old Eagle woman last summer.
Dominating the day’s docket was testimony about the alleged victim’s sexual history. Today’s testimony is expected to center on a defense request to throw out evidence collected by sheriff’s investigators when they interviewed Bryant.
How Ruckriegle rules on those two issues could go a long way in determining the strength of the case against Bryant.
“Rape shield and suppression (of evidence) are the two biggest issues remaining,” said Denver defense attorney Craig Silverman, a former prosecutor who is closely following this case.
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Silverman predicted that Ruckriegle will hear everything he thinks he needs to hear before ruling on either issue.
“Judge Ruckriegle will never be hurried into a wrong decision,” said Silverman.
Among those who testified Monday were former boyfriend Johnray Strickland, who met Bryant’s alleged victim at the University of Northern Colorado, and Eagle County Sheriff’s Detective Doug Winters, who interviewed her July 1, the day after the incident at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.
Court officials said this portion of the rape shield testimony is scheduled to conclude today, and then testimony about suppression of evidence is scheduled to begin.
So far, Ruckriegle has heard testimony from more than a dozen witnesses in previous hearings about the woman’s sexual activities around the time of the incident June 30.
Defense attorney Pamela Mackey has asked in open court whether Bryant’s alleged victim’s injuries could have been caused by having sex with three men in three days. The prosecution says the woman’s sexual history is irrelevant in determining whether Bryant raped the woman.
The alleged victim’s attorney, John Clune, has denied a defense assertion that the alleged victim had sex with someone between the time she left Bryant the night of June 30 and the time she was being interviewed by sheriff’s investigators – a span of about 15 hours.
Still to be argued is a defense motion challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s rape shield law, which is designed to prevent a rape victim’s sexual and personal history from being admitted in a trial, unless the judge rules it is relevant in determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
“If they can put on credible evidence that she had sex after Kobe Bryant and before she went to the cops, I’m not sure we’re even going to have a trial,” said Silverman. “That one fact alone would cause reasonable doubt for one or more of the jurors.”
Bryant, 25, has said the sex was consensual. If convicted of the felony sexual assault with which he’s charged, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation.
Suppression of evidence
Bryant’s attorneys want Ruckriegle to throw out evidence that sheriff’s investigators say Bryant willingly provided, including Bryant’s statements to investigators that they tape recorded, a T-shirt stained with the woman’s blood and a rape kit performed on Bryant after the alleged assault.
The defense contends that Bryant was not properly advised of his Miranda rights.
Prosecutors counter that Bryant was not under arrest, was free to leave and cooperated voluntarily, and therefore did not need to be advised of his rights.
At a glance
– Defense attorney Hal Haddon asked earlier how much money Kobe Bryant’s alleged victim has received from a state victims compensation fund.
In a response filed Monday, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said any money is paid to therapy providers, not to alleged victims, and does not pay for therapy to victims or their families. Hurlbert also said payment information is confidential.
“The prosecution does not rely on tabloid newspapers,” wrote Hurlbert, adding that obtaining personal medical details without permission is a felony.
Colorado’s victim’s compensation fund sometimes repays crime victims for some out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance. It is funded by fees and fines paid by those convicted and penalized for crimes. It is not funded by tax dollars.
Haddon has said the woman apparently stayed in a $35,000-per-month rehabilitation center in Wickenberg, Ariz.
Local attorney and former federal and state prosecutor David Lugert also said he had never heard of victims’ compensation money being used for drug or alcohol rehabilitation rather than living or medical expenses.
“The defense wants to play that into another arrow in their quiver to get at her credibility,” Lugert said.
– Both sides have continually traded shots as to whether all evidence has been turned over by prosecutors.
Mark Hurlbert wrote in Monday’s filing that prosecutors have complied with all reasonable defense requests. Hurlbert wrote that he is barred by state law from turning over some of the information.