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Forensics expert: Tough to tell age of semen

Steve Henson L.A. Times and Washington Post News Service

A forensics expert Tuesday said it is nearly impossible to determine the age of semen taken in a rape examination, calling into question a defense allegation that the accuser had sex with another man less than 15 hours after she said she was raped by Kobe Bryant.

The defense believes the woman’s sexual conduct in the days surrounding the alleged assault is an exception to the rape-shield law because it offers an alternative source for her vaginal trauma. It supports the defense theory that she claimed she was raped only to gain attention from an ex-boyfriend.

In open court Monday, defense attorney Hal Haddon said that swabs of semen taken from the woman were from a man other than Bryant, and that she had sex with someone else after the alleged sexual assault and before the rape exam.



The allegation was not new. In a court filing Jan. 12, defense attorney Pamela Mackey suggested “an intervening sex act.” Mackey also wrote that the woman “told law enforcement that the underwear had been clean when she put them on, and laundering of the underwear would have destroyed any semen present.”

Pete Mang, a spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said in an interview Tuesday that the only way to gauge of the age of semen is to test for sperm, which can remain present for about 72 hours. That would indicate the defense has no forensic evidence that proves the woman had sex after the alleged rape.



But Mang also said it would be “highly unusual” for dried semen from underwear to transfer to a person’s body and be detected in a swab. That would support the defense assertion that the semen from the swab is from a different sexual episode than the semen on the underwear.

The woman told investigators that the last time she had consensual sex before the alleged rape was June 28 with a boyfriend who used a condom. It is that testimony that forms the basis for the defense contention that the semen obtained from the rape examination must have originated from sexual conduct after the encounter with Bryant.

Because the woman denies having sex with anyone after the alleged rape, the defense is expected to ask her to explain the origin of the semen both in her underwear and on the swab should the rape-shield hearing continue.



“It is going to be a difficult day for her,” legal expert Craig Silverman said. “She will be asked to name names. She will be asked where sex took place, the level of force that was used and about her level of sobriety.”

The woman can account for most of the 15-hour period beginning when she left Bryant’s hotel room and ending with her rape examination.

However, testimony indicates bellman Bobby Pietrack followed her home from the hotel, and the next morning she was alone at home for several hours before calling her mother at work.

The focus on her conduct after the alleged rape prompted her attorney, John Clune, to issue the written denial. After he did, a Colorado courts administrator asked that Ruckriegle rule whether Clune was in violation of an existing gag order.


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