Jurors queried on race, adultery
EAGLE – Kobe Bryant’s potential jurors are being asked to probe their feelings about marital infidelity, interracial relationships and NBA players.The 300 potential jurors in the Bryant rape case answered 82 questions last Friday on subjects ranging from the National Basketball Association in general and Bryant specifically, to the whether the rich are treated differently in court, or whether African Americans experience disciminiation.The judge and lawyers for both sides pored over those questionnaires during the weekend, and pared 95 people from the pool. The remaining 205 will be called back in groups of 41 – two groups each day – through at least Wednesday morning, until District Judge Terry Ruckriegle is satisfied that a jury of 12 members and two alternates can be seated. Those people will decide whether Bryant will return to the NBA or possibly be sent to prison for allegedly raping an Eagle woman on June 30, 2003, in his hotel suite at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. The woman says Bryant forced her to have sex with him. Bryant says she agreed.The jury will decide. If they decide he’s guilty, he faces at least 20 years probation, or prison time of four years to life.
Bryant was in the courtroom Monday as potential jurors went through the second round of questioning.The jury questionnaire was released Monday as attorneys and the judge went into closed-door sessions for private discussions with those potential jurors.Early Monday, Ruckriegle rejected a media request to be present during those hearings. He said jury candidates would answer questions more freely in private sessions, and without the press present.Most of the questioning, at least at this stage, deals with who to toss out, rather than who to select, said legal experts.”The object is to uncover potential jurors with hidden agendas and get rid of them as quickly as possible,” explained local defense attorney and former state and federal prosecutor David Lugert.That goes for both sides. Lugert said if someone in their family has had what they think is trouble with law enforcement, prosecutors won’t let them swim long in the jury pool.
On the other hand, if Bryant’s defense attorneys learn that a potential juror thinks NBA players either walk on water or swim in the sewer, they probably won’t make the cut, either.Questions, questionsBesides the NBA and star power, the questionnaire touched on a broad range of topics, including what potential jurors think about interracial relationships, “any negative experience with an African American” and their opinions of mental health professionals.Potential jurors were also asked if they’d been “affected by or involved in” marital infidelity. Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have one daughter. Bryant’s alleged victim is not married.The judge asked potential jurors if they have formed opinions about Bryant’s guilt or innocence based on pretrial publicity, and whether they are familiar with the alleged victim or her family.Jury selection will remain private until at least Wednesday, when reporters will be able to watch and listen through closed-circuit television. Opening statements are expected Sept. 7.
Growing jury poolThe Bryant case jury pool grew by 71 people Monday morning, bringing the total to 276.About 300 people were called for a jury trial in Judge Richard Hart’s court. That trial was dismissed, but the 71 potential jurors who showed up were handed questionnaires for the Bryant case and added to that jury pool. They were instructed to call the courts Thursday afternoon, when they would learn if they needed to report for the questioning the other potential jurors are going through.Randy Wyrick is covering the Kobe Bryant rape case for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.Vail Colorado