Bryant case plods slowly in court
The wheels of justice turn slowly, and anyone hoping the Kobe Bryant case comes to a quick end will probably be disappointed, the judge said Friday.
District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said attorneys for the defense and the prosecution asked that the trial begin as quickly as possible. Ruckriegle, though, said any wounds caused by delays are self-inflicted.
“Counsel wants a trial as quickly as possible,” said Ruckriegle, adding that there are numerous issues still to be resolved.
Ruckriegle lightly scolded attorneys for filing motions without consulting the attorneys for the other side. He said some of the issues could be handled through better communication among the prosecution, defense and the attorneys for the alleged victim.
“Some documents filed by each side indicate less than complete communication,” Ruckriegle said. “This is costly for the parties and time consuming for the court.”
Ruckriegle then commended attorneys for the cooperation they did demonstrate, and encouraged more of that sort of behavior.
He also said the sheer volume of paperwork being filed is ominous.
Ruckriegle recalled a death penalty case 18 years ago that he said did not generate the number of briefs and motions this rape case is creating.
Ruckriegle said that while budget cuts have forced the 5th Judicial District to cut staff, the number of filings with the court is up 30 percent, not including this case.
Bryant, 25, faces felony sexual assault charges for allegedly raping a 19-year-old Eagle woman at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera on June 30. He was a guest at the hotel, and she was a front desk worker. He has said the sex was consensual and that he is not guilty.
As the pace of the day’s proceedings plodded along, Bryant, dressed in a tailored blue double-breasted suit, sat quietly at the defendant’s table.
Gone were the cheering and jeering crowds of this summer, as sub-zero weather thinned on-lookers to only those who were paid to be there.
The alleged victim’s family, who was there in force occupying the entire front row, was ushered in and out of the Eagle County courthouse through a side door – as was Bryant and his attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon – as security in and around the courthouse was tightened. Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said the changes in security measures were not a result of any threat, but are based on standard security measures used throughout the law enforcement industry.
Bryant’s Mackey and Haddon clashed with Resource Center attorney Inga Causey over a one-line notation made by a rape crisis counselor the day after an interview involving the alleged victim, the rape counselor and a sheriff’s investigator.
Causey asked Ruckriegle to reconsider two previous orders requiring a hearing to determine whether that notation should be turned over to the defense. Causey insisted that the notation was part of a private and privileged conference between the alleged victim and the rape crisis counselor. She said the context is key, and that a one-line notation does not provide that context. Causey said the defense request is aimed solely at discrediting the alleged victim.
“This has served only to re-victimize her over and over,” said Causey.
Causey, clearly agitated with the defense request, said the alleged victim’s name, address and other personal information is the most searched-for information on the Internet and that Web sites about her have been titled, “Kobe’s Accuser,” “Kobe’s Accuser Slut, “Kobe’s Accuser Bitch” and other derogatory names – assertions she made as Ruckriegle waved his hand and told her to stop, saying he’d heard enough.
“Her name and photograph have been passed around like a dirty post card,” said Causey. “During the William Kennedy Smith rape trial, the number of rape victims going to crisis counselors was down 20 percent. This has far-reaching implications.”
Mackey, Bryant’s lead defense attorney, said she sympathized with the Resource Center and their cause, but that it doesn’t speak to the issue at hand.
“We’re trying to get to the truth of this case,” Mackey told Ruckriegle. “My client is accused of a serious crime. There is lots of history about black men being falsely accused of rape by white women. We don’t want to get dragged down into that or the Resource Center’s political agenda.
“We only ask that the court order them to do what they are required to do under the law.”
Ruckriegle said he would again reconsider his earlier order and issue a ruling in a few days on whether he would hold a hearing.
Medical records mishandled
Defense attorneys offered to destroy records mistakenly give to them by Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. That report details information of the alleged victim’s emergency room treatment there, May 30, 2003, following an overdose at her home in Eagle.
According to testimony Friday morning, a Valley View records clerk was directed to give the District Attorney’s Office a report outlining the alleged victim’s July 1 rape exam. The clerk mistakenly also printed the alleged victim’s May 30 emergency room report and sent it along to the District Attorney’s Office.
As part of the normal exchange of information between the prosecution and defense on the rape exam report, the district attorney’s staff mistakenly included that May 30 emergency room report in the package of documents they gave Bryant’s defense team.
Special prosecutor Ingrid Bakke said that two months later, when the mistake was discovered, prosecutors asked that the emergency room report be returned or destroyed.
Haddon, Mackey’s partner on the defense team, argued that “once the cat’s out of the bag, it’s out.” Haddon later offered to destroy those documents and all the copies. Bakke said prosecutors had already destroyed their copies.
Hospital records also sought
Bryant’s attorneys are also asking for medical records from the Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley. The alleged victim was treated there after a drug overdose in late February 2003, while she was a student at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
According to testimony, when that request came to the hospital, a records clerk bundled up everything asked for – without consulting the hospital’s attorneys. The clerk then sent it by an overnight courier to Eagle County Court Judge Fred Gannett, where the case was being heard before Gannett bound it over to District Court for trial.
Gannett did not release the documents to either the prosecution or the defense, instead locking it in a safe in his chambers, where it has remained until an attorney for the Northern Colorado Medical Center looked at it Friday.
Bryant’s statements private?
Haddon argued that at least some of the statements Bryant made to sheriff’s investigators should remain private and should not be discussed in open court, a view contested by media attorney Chris Beall. He asserted that the only way for the public to know whether the police officers they employ are behaving themselves is to hear and see for themselves what those officers are up to.
Haddon said investigators met Bryant in the Cordillera parking lot at 1 a.m. July 1 and questioned him. Investigators then drove him to Valley View Hospital for his rape test between 2:30 and 3 a.m. Some of what Bryant told the investigators during that time is “immaterial, prejudicial, irrelevant and intensely personal material,” said Haddon, and should not be made public because they would harm Bryant’s right to a fair trial.
Haddon also argued that while the defense team wants the alleged victim’s medical records, they should not be made public for the same reasons.
“They are personal and potentially embarrassing,” he said.
Haddon also argued that one of the sheriff’s investigators who questioned Bryant during the early morning hours of July 1 had a tape recorder hidden in his shirt pocket, and that the conversation had been recorded “surreptitiously.”
Beall countered that a potential juror hearing information that might be inadmissible does not mean Bryant cannot get a fair trial.
“Unfortunately for the defendant, embarrassment does not mean not getting a fair trial,” said Beall.
Public vs. private
Attorneys for both sides asserted that much of the evidence being argued over should be argued in private, over the objections of attorneys for the media. In fact, attorneys for the prosecution and defense ended their long day in a private session with Ruckriegle, arguing over whether the defense should have access to the alleged victim’s medical records.
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