Medical confidentiality ruling could play role in Kobe Bryant case
DENVER – A Colorado court has backed up the confidentiality of patient-doctor records in a ruling legal experts say makes it even more unlikely Kobe Bryant’s attorneys will ever gain access to his accuser’s medical background.
The Court of Appeals, ruling in a case in which a man was convicted of molesting a 5-year-old girl, said Colorado law bars the release of medical records of assault victims, including records of treatment following an attack. The court said the records cannot be reviewed even by a judge, unless the prosecution makes them an issue.
“”Our Supreme Court has been incredibly protective of medical and psychological records of rape victims – perhaps more so than any other court in the nation,” said Scott Robinson, a Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor.
Amy Fitch, a former prosecutor who argued the appeals case, agreed.
“”There is no basis in the law for anybody getting pre-assault or post-assault records unless the prosecution makes it an issue during a trial,” she said Friday.
Attorneys for Bryant have asked to see the medical records of his accuser, including details from a February visit to a Greeley hospital after campus police determined she had an unspecified mental health issue.
Bryant, 25, is charged with raping the 19-year-old woman in June at the resort where she worked and he was a guest. The Los Angeles Lakers star has said the two had consensual sex.
Legal experts have said it would be unusual for the judge to allow pre-incident medical records as evidence in the Bryant case. The appeals court ruling only buttressed that belief.
“”In my opinion, the pre-assault records have no relevance,” Fitch said.
Pamela Mackey, who represents Bryant, did not return a call seeking comment. Krista Flannigan, spokeswoman for District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, declined comment.
A federal law that took effect last year also bars the release of medical records without a patient’s consent – something Alicia Mitchell, spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association, called “”an additional layer of safeguards” for accusers.
“”In Colorado, the federal law is just one more jacket thrown over a bulletproof vest,” Robinson added.
The appeals court decision, issued Thursday, was in the case of Daniel Gonzales, 42, who was accused of assaulting the girl in 1999. The court said the trial judge shouldn’t have released records from the girl’s therapist to the defense and shouldn’t have ordered the therapist to testify.
Colorado law says communication between psychologist and patient is privileged information and mental health professionals can’t be forced to testify without consent from a victim, the court ruled.
The defense had argued they needed therapy records because they might reveal inconsistent statements bearing on the victim’s credibility.
The court ordered resentencing for Gonzales, who was sent to prison in 2001 for 64 years.