Defense gets down and dirty in Bryant case
Kobe Bryant’s defense team dropped a bombshell to end Thursday’s surprise preliminary hearing at the Eagle County Justice Center a proceeding most legal pundits predicted would be waived.In a cross-examination of lead detective Doug Winters of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department, Bryant defense attorney Pamela Mackey grilled Winters on a nurse’s examination of Bryant’s alleged victim, noting that it detailed only redness and tiny lacerations on her vagina.In earlier testimony, Winters has said the nurse told him the injuries were caused by “penetrating genital trauma that is not consistent with consensual sex.”Later on, Mackey asked Winters, “Did you also ask if (the injuries) were consistent with someone who had had sex with three different men in three days?”It was not clear if she meant the three days preceding the alleged victim’s sexual encounter with the NBA superstar at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, where she was working when the June 30 attack allegedly occurred.At that point Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett took the proceedings back into the privacy of his chambers. He later emerged and said he had to further consider a defense request to close the balance of the proceedings to the public, and better establish rules for the lines of questioning.Gannett continued the hearing, which is normally a formality to establish probable cause for a trial, until 9 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 15. A stoic Bryant, 25, sat through Thursday’s hearing without saying a word. His alleged victim was not required to testify. Bryant admits only to consensual sex with the woman.”The case was getting away from them in the court of public opinion,” former chief Denver deputy district attorney Craig Silverman said of the defense’s decision to go ahead with the preliminary hearing instead of taking the case straight to district court.But Silverman added that, based on Winters’ testimony the only witness to appear Thursday, Oct. 9 the case should not be sent to trial.”I don’t think they necessarily have probable cause based on what we’ve heard because it’s all hearsay,” Silverman said, adding the defense clearly wanted to go forward with the preliminary hearing as an opportunity to show the weakness of the prosecution’s case and smear the alleged victim.”They threw out some serious mud; let’s see if it will stick,” Silverman said. “I think this is a surprisingly weak case.”But former Denver District Attorney Norm Early countered that the defense strategy of attacking the alleged victim could backfire.”There was no other defense strategy than to smear the victim,” Early said. “That’s why they wanted a preliminary hearing. That’s why all the experts thought there would be none, because nobody thought the defense team would stoop that low.” Early said Mackey’s statement about the prior sexual encounters are likely inadmissible at trial.Said Early, “You can bet that her bottom was being chewed out in chambers when they called that recess,” Early said. “(The tactic) had nothing to do with the admissible evidence in this case. They ask those questions for no other reason than to get the jury thinking along those lines.”While Silverman said Mackey’s use of the victim’s name in open court six times was accidental, Early asserted the opposite was true.”A mistake? The combination of using her name over and over again, even though she’d been admonished against doing it, and then following up with a question like that (about prior sex), that’s what makes it despicable, that’s what makes it contemptible. That’s what makes it sleazy."”Let me write myself a note,” Mackey quipped after being warned by Gannett to be careful about naming the victim. “Or I could just go get the muzzle,” Gannett chided back.The hearing, which many experts felt could only damage Bryant’s image without providing much defense fodder at trial, began at 1:15 p.m. with Winters walking the prosecution through his one-hour videotaped interview with the alleged victim, a 19-year-old Eagle Valley High School graduate. Winters detailed the interview, but it was not played in open court.In that interview, Winters said the alleged victim claimed Bryant asked her back to his room after she took him on a tour of the hotel. What began as consensual hugging and kissing, she said, quickly turned into unwanted groping and rubbing of her vagina.Bryant then put his hands around her neck from behind, according to Winters, and forced her to bend face-first over a chair, where he lifted up her dress, pulled down her panties and raped her vaginally. Bryant has been charged with one count of third-degree sexual assault, which carries a possible sentence of four years to life in prison.Winters also testified the nurse found evidence of the alleged victim’s blood in her panties, and that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation used a DNA test to confirm her blood was streaked on the inside of Bryant’s T-shirt.A small bruise, half the size of a penny, was discovered by the nurse on the alleged victim’s jaw, but Winters said he never saw that bruise during his taped interview the day after. The nurse’s exam took place later that day at Glenwood’s Valley View Hospital.In her cross-examination, Mackey hammered away at Winters because of a lack of evidence of any sort of bruising or trauma to the alleged victim’s neck, even though she claims she was fearful Bryant would choke her during their sexual encounter.After an hour and a half of emotionally gripping testimony from a calm, somewhat wide-eyed Winters, Gannett recessed and took the parties back into chambers to consider the admissibility of an audio-taped interview of Bryant during his first contact with police. Despite media arguments, Gannett decided to keep the audio tape out of open court.Winters also testified that after the five-minute sexual assault, the woman explained how Bryant repeatedly asked her not to tell anyone else about the incident. Although she said that she would not tell, she said she denied his request to kiss his penis after the encounter, but that “he grabbed her, pulled out his penis and she kissed it,” according to Winters.But she told the detective that she abided his advances “for fear that he would hurt her more.” She said she cried during the entire encounter and recalled hearing Bryant make groaning noises and stating that “he liked Vail, Colorado.”
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