High court backs judge on Bryant
Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape victim could face an almost unlimited scope of questioning when she takes the stand later this month, following Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling.
The court denied the prosecution’s request to limit the kinds of questions she will face. District Judge Terry Ruckriegle, who’s hearing the case, denied the prosecution’s request for limits. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed with Ruckriegle’s position.
Bryant’s defense attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, filed a motion two and a half months ago challenging the rape shield law. They later indicated they planned to put the alleged victim on the stand, in private, to testify about her sexual history in the days surrounding the event.
They assert that her injuries could have been caused by having sex with other men in the days leading up to the June 30 incident, as well as having sex less than 15 hours after she and Bryant were together in his hotel room. The alleged victim’s attorney John Clune has said that the defense’s allegation of sex shortly after the incident with Bryant is not true.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Cynthia Stone of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “This defense team has continually violated the spirit of Colorado’s rape shield law.”
Mackey and Haddon have been criticized by women’s advocates for statements about the alleged victim in court and in motions, calling into question the alleged victim’s lifestyle and sexual behavior. While Bryant admitted he and his alleged victim had sex, his attorneys asserted in a court motion that the alleged victim could have contrived the rape allegation to attract the attention of a former boyfriend.
“They have drug this woman under the mud, not just through it,” said Stone. “They have spread rumor and innuendo. Now they have free rein for a fishing expedition.”
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said he’s concerned for the alleged victim.
“I recognize that requests for petitions to be heard by the court are rarely granted, and we respect the court’s decision,” Hurlbert said in a written statement. “However, we continue to have great concern about the humiliation the victim is being asked to endure at the hands of the criminal justice system. Furthermore, future victims may not report their victimization for fear of similar humiliation.”
In denying the prosecutors’ request to limit the questioning of the alleged victim earlier this month, Ruckriegle said prosecutors waited until Feb. 27 to file their request to limit questioning – two and a half months after defense attorneys Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon asked for a hearing on the matter – and that’s too long.
Prosecutors asked that the alleged victim be quizzed only about the source of injuries found on her during a hospital examination and the source of semen found in underwear she wore that day.
Ruckriegle rejected those limits.
No real surprise
Local attorney Rohn Robbins said successful appeals are rare. He said he isn’t really surprised that the Supreme Court denied this one.
“Appeals generally run at about a 5 to 10 percent success rate, and that’s just normal to the court of appeals,” said Robbins. “At the Supreme Court, it’s even less than that.”
Robbins explained that Ruckriegle’s order is essentially a matter of the judge exercising discretion in managing his own courtroom. He said the Supreme Court denying the prosecution’s appeal is the high court’s reluctance to interfere with that, or Bryant.
Matters of law, however, don’t make this any easier for the alleged victim.
“It’s going to be a grilling that’s unwelcome and I don’t wish on anyone,” said Robbins. “Much of my sympathies lie with the alleged victim. And if, in fact, she is an actual victim and not an alleged victim, then all my sympathies lie with her.”
On the other hand, Robbins said, if Bryant is falsely accused, he deserves to have the kind of information that could prove it.
“He could be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life, he could be on probation for the rest of his life, he could be in prison for the rest of his life,” said Robbins.
The Supreme Court denied the People’s petition for an appeal under Colorado Appellate Rule 21. The rule states that “relief under this rule is extraordinary in nature …”
Bryant, 25, is charged with one count of felony sexual assault, stemming from a June 30 incident at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. Bryant has said the sex was consensual.
The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for March 24 and 25.