Jury selection starts in Bryant rape case
EAGLE ” Three-hundred Eagle County residents answered the call Friday and will form the jury pool for Kobe Bryant’s rape case.
After sending jury summons to 999 Eagle County residents, less than a third showed up Friday for the first round of jury selection. It was a group that pleased court officials in both numbers and attitude.
“One-third is about status quo for the state of Colorado,” said state courts coordinator Karen Salaz. “It appeared this group was taking their responsibility very seriously, judging by the atmosphere. They were paying very close attention to the judge during his remarks.”
The jurors came in four waves throughout the day, reporting at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. They completed forms with more than 80 questions, whittled down from 115 on the original form.
Upon completing the questionnaire, each potential juror was given a number and instructions to call a message machine Sunday night.
That recorded message will tell them whether they need report back next week for more questioning.
Attorneys for both sides will get together with District Judge Terry Ruckriegle at 3 p.m. Sunday to review the jury questionnaires.
After 14 months, Friday’s beginning of jury selection opens the trial phase of Bryant’s case, which just a few short weeks ago seemed destined to fall apart.
The alleged victim’s attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood, did a round of television interviews saying she was having doubts about whether to go forward with the criminal case in state district court or leave the decision to the federal courts, where she has sued Bryant for an unspecified amount of money.
As the Friday’s opening day for the criminal trial grew nearer, prosecutors repeated like a mantra that nothing had changed, that they still had confidence in their case, and that it was going forward.
“It seems like it has taken an extraordinary amount of time and has taken an extraordinary toll on the victim,” said Cynthia Stone of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “The longer it went the more speculation and information came out about her ” not all of it true.”
“She’s still going forward, and that shows tremendous conviction and courage,” Stone said.
Bryant, 25, faces one count of felony sexual assault, stemming from a June 30, 2003, encounter with a young Eagle woman, then 19, at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. She says he raped her. He says the sex was consensual. If convicted, Bryant faces four years up to life in prison.
The trial is expected to last five weeks, with opening statements just after the Labor Day weekend.
Jurors will have mountains of information to wade through. The prosecution’s updated witness list now includes 53 witnesses
Jurors will be handed notebooks in which to keep notes in during the five week trial. Included in that notebook are 30 pictures of Cordillera and two other pictures dealing with evidence.
In hearings this week, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said the case has generated 43 files. “I think we’re going to set the record,” said Ruckriegle.
Ruckriegle also dismissed an assertion by prosecutors that they needed more time to compose arguments on questions about the defense’s handling of DNA evidence.
“I think we’ve all been living this case long enough to know what the issues are,” said Ruckriegle.
So far, 568 media passes have been issued to curious journalists, all dedicated to The Public’s Right to Know ” to know what remains to be learned. Most of the television reporters are wearing black arm bands and are in mourning after the judge’s ruling keeping TV cameras out of his courtroom.
While journalists seem to be salivating about the trial’s onset, the general public does not seem to be nearly as interested. Court officials said, so far, they’ve received only two requests from the general public for seats. They said they received “a load” of requests for Bryant’s first court appearance, Aug. 6, 2003.