Jury to get statements, physical evidence
Jurors in the Kobe Bryant case will hear almost everything Bryant said when he was interrogated by sheriff’s detectives, a judge ruled Wednesday.State District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle ordered jurors will hear Bryant’s statements to sheriff’s detectives during his 75 minute interrogation. Jurors will also have access to the physical evidence detectives collected the night after Bryant allegedly raped a then-19-year-old Eagle woman in Room 35 of the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.”We’re pleased with the ruling,” said District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Krista Flannigan. “We consider it a win for the prosecution.”Bryant’s attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, had asked Ruckriegle to throw out the statements and evidence, saying it was collected improperly and Bryant had not been read his Miranda rights. Prosecutors said Bryant voluntarily cooperated with detectives, was not under arrest and they didn’t need to read him his rights.”The uncontroverted testimony was that Mr. Bryant ‘consented’ to giving them the clothing, and that he went about his room gathering up various articles,” Ruckriegle said in his ruling.Ruckriegle also said Bryant told Eagle County Sheriff’s detectives Doug Winters and Dan Loya, “Ask me what? Ask me something. Ask me anything.”Local defense attorney and former federal and state prosecutor David Lugert called Ruckriegle’s ruling “balanced” and a victory for the prosecution.”I think the victim and law enforcement will be well pleased with the decision to admit this evidence,” said Lugert. “On balance it’s a very fair ruling, well thought out and supported factually and legally.”If prosecutors had been denied use of any evidence by Ruckriegle’s ruling, they could have immediately appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. Lugert pointed out that Bryant is not in the same position. His avenue of appeal will come only if he is convicted and after he is sentenced.”Because of all these things, you can be assured that tonight Mr. Bryant is more worried about his future than he was last night,” said Lugert. “The court has broadened the scope of evidence of Mr. Bryant’s possible guilt that will be admissible in front of an Eagle County jury.”The shirt off his backBryant’s interrogation was conducted in the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera parking lot, and later in his hotel room, between 1 a.m. and 2:15 a.m., July 2, 2003. Bryant was awake and walking around the hotel when he encountered the officers outside the hotel. He’d had knee surgery that morning at Vail’s Steadman Hawkins Clinic.Bryant, accompanied by his personal security guard and off duty Los Angeles police detective Troy Laster, initiated the conversation when he approached detectives and said, “What’s going on, fellas?”Bryant was interrogated by Winters and Loya. Ruckriegle ruled Bryant was not then under arrest, was free to leave, and the detectives made clear what they were doing – investigating a sexual assault allegation.Bryant literally gave investigators the shirt off his back when they questioned him in his hotel room. When the detectives gathered up the blue nylon warm-up pants, a T-shirt, Bryant’s boxer shorts and some Cordillera papers, Bryant asked, “You want this shirt?”Winters said they would like it, so Bryant stripped it off and gave it to them.According to testimony during the preliminary hearing, that was the shirt Bryant wore the night before, during the incident that resulted in his arrest. The T-shirt had three spots stained with the alleged victim’s blood.”No evidence was presented to contradict the testimony that Bryant freely and voluntarily pointed out and provided them with the items they took,” ruled Ruckriegle.Bryant emotional, publicity consciousAccording the ruling, during the interview, Bryant raised the possibility of publicity while talking with the detectives.”The detectives explained to him ‘there was no way, shape or form’ they could control that,” wrote Ruckriegle.Bryant also told the detectives the alleged victim had requested an autograph and had given him a Cordillera-marked envelope, papers and a marker, which he showed them.Ruckriegle said the detectives were not confrontational and did not make promises or threats to induce Bryant’s cooperation during the interview. Bryant, however, became quite emotional.”The defendant was occasionally crying and very emotional during this time period,” Ruckriegle wrote.Bryant’s only refusal to cooperate came when detectives asked him to submit to a rape kit exam. Ruckriegle wrote that Bryant replied, “I won’t.””OK. I’m gonna be up front with you right now,” Winters told Bryant. “I have a court order so it doesn’t matter whether you consent to it or not.”Bryant’s rape exam will not be allowed as evidence. Ruckriegle ruled Bryant did not agree until after Winters said he had a warrant, and Bryant’s consent did not matter. In his ruling, Ruckriegle said that created a situation that was no longer voluntary for Bryant.Tale of the tapeRuckriegle said “significant portions of the tape recording are inaudible, particularly as they relate to Mr. Bryant’s responses to the detectives’ questions.””If the purpose of the surreptitious recording was to capture the suspect’s answers, it was certainly ineffective,” wrote Ruckriegle.Loya carried his personal microcassette recorder in his shirt pocket. The tape ran the entire length of the interrogation.That recording contains 11 gaps in the conversation, which defense audio expert Rich Sanders said were actual interruptions in the tape. Prosecution expert John Polito agreed there were 11 gaps, but said no conclusion could be reached as to what caused 10 of them.Wednesday’s ruling is the second of three major rulings Ruckriegle had to make. The three major issues deal with access to the alleged victim’s medical records; suppression of evidence; and what, if any, of the alleged victim’s sexual activity will be heard by the jury. Ruckriegle has already denied Bryant’s attorneys access to the alleged victim’s medical records. He ruled on the suppression issue Wednesday.Bryant will be back in Eagle County Monday for the last scheduled round of pretrial hearings. His trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 27. If convicted, Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000. Ruckriegle also extended the plea negotiation deadline until next Tuesday because of his order. Mackey has said repeatedly that there will be no plea agreement and the case is going to trial.Four Key Rulings• ADMISSIBLE: The jury will hear statements Bryant made to detectives during his interrogation.• ADMISSIBLE: The physical evidence collected by detectives will be available to the jury. The physical evidence includes at least five items: The T-shirt Bryant was wearing when he was interrogated; a second T-shirt; his blue Nike warm-up pants; boxer shorts; and some Cordillera-marked stationery and an envelope. The T-shirt he was wearing was the same shirt he had worn the night before during the incident with his alleged victim. According to testimony during the preliminary hearing, it was stained with three spots of the alleged victim’s blood.• NOT ADMISSIBLE: Statements obtained after detectives told Bryant they had a warrant to require him to submit to a rape exam will not be admissible. Bryant initially refused, agreeing only after learning detectives had a warrant. Ruckriegle ruled that Bryant’s voluntary cooperation ceased at that point.• NOT ADMISSIBLE: Because Bryant initially refused to a rape exam, his rape kit exam will not be admissible. The exam for males scientifically determines that an alleged perpetrator had some sort of sexual encounter with his alleged victim. Bryant has already admitted committing “adultery” with his alleged victim.