Judge’s ruling on medical records bars defense tactic in Kobe Bryant case
DENVER – The defense in the Kobe Bryant case will have to rely on witness testimony rather than medical records as it takes aim at the credibility of the 19-year-old woman who has accused the NBA superstar of rape.
A judge decided Wednesday not to allow Bryant’s defense team access to the alleged victim’s medical records.
Judge Terry Ruckriegle said no witness during three hearings had convinced him the woman waived her confidentiality rights by telling others about her medical history. Among the witnesses were the woman’s mother, two college roommates and a former boyfriend.
Ruckriegle also threw out defense subpoenas issued to three health care providers seeking records.
Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. The Los Angeles Lakers star has said he had consensual sex with the woman last summer at the Vail-area resort where she worked.
Defense attorneys have said the woman’s medical records could undermine her credibility and demonstrate she had a “scheme” to falsely accuse the Los Angeles Lakers star. They say she twice attempted suicide in the months before meeting Bryant, and had been prescribed anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs.
They also have said she had mental problems that could have clouded her perception of what happened on the night of her encounter with Bryant.
Prosecutors have argued that none of the information contained in her medical records is relevant to whether she consented to sex with Bryant.
Analysts said the ruling was not surprising, considering strong state laws protecting confidentiality and a 2002 Colorado Supreme Court ruling that told judges they cannot review medical records – even behind closed doors – without consent.
“This is definitely an important victory for people who get medical treatment that don’t want to lose the privilege just because they’ve decided to talk to other people or confide in family and friends for support,” said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor and visiting professor at the University of Denver law school.
Larry Pozner, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the defense still can seek testimony from people who have direct knowledge about the woman’s purported suicide attempts and prescription drug use.
“The defense has a bathtub full of evidence on her suicide attempts that is not in the medical records, it’s just plain old-fashioned (eyewitness) testimony,” he said. “While the defense won’t get the diagnosis, they are still left with very important medical evidence.”
The woman’s attorney, John Clune, declined to comment. Defense attorney Hal Haddon did not immediately return a call, and prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said only that prosecutors were pleased.