Don’t hit back, the law says |

Don’t hit back, the law says

If attorneys trying to keep Kobe Bryant out of prison, or put him in, sometimes look like they’re doing the courtroom equivalent of a Muhammed Ali rope-a-dope, it’s because they have to, not because they want to.

They’d rather drop the gloves and swing away, but the law won’t allow it.

Attorneys are bound by a code of professional conduct, said district attorney’s office spokeswoman Krista Flannigan. That code of conduct dictates what attorneys can and cannot discuss publicly, and is the foundation for District Judge Terry Ruckriegle’s order limiting pretrial publicity.

According to the Colorado Bar Association, prosecutors can respond to defense motions only through their own motions, and that the reverse is also true. It also prohibits attorneys from filling newspapers and airwaves with press releases to argue their positions. That has to be left to the courtroom.

For example, when Harold Haddon dropped a comment in open court earlier this month about three semen swabs from the alleged victim’s rape exam indicating DNA not from Bryant – without saying who they might have come from, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert jumped up immediately to object. District Judge Terry Ruckriegle called up all the attorneys for both sides for a little talk.

“Objecting for the record is our recourse,” explained Flannigan. “No one from the DA’s office can come out and deny something to the press.

“That violates the code of conduct.”

The same rules apply to Bryant’s defense team, Pamela Mackey and Haddon.

When prosecutor Dana Easter said some of the defense’s assertions about the alleged victim are based on “lies, rumor and innuendo,” defense attorneys were also prohibited from parading before a press conference to deny the allegation.

“They’re bound by the same code of ethics we are,” said Flannigan. “We have legal recourse with matters, but cannot deal with it publicly beyond what’s done in open court.”

Those parameters apply to everyone involved with the case, not just prosecutors and defense attorneys.

When a defense motion earlier this month asserted that Bryant’s alleged victim had sex with someone else less than 15 hours after the June 30 incident with Bryant, her attorney John Clune issued a written statement the next day saying it’s not true. In his statement, Clune was careful to respond to media reports, and not to the defense motion.

Flannigan said Clune was responding to the media report, not to the defense’s motion.

“He was well within the code of conduct to do what he did,” said Flannigan.

Flannigan said attorneys can respond to motions only through their own motions.

“If the media reports something that is blatantly false, we can speak to that,” said Flannigan.

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