Prosecutors fight Bryant team’s jury instructions
DENVER – Prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case are fighting jury instructions proposed by the defense, saying they will confuse jurors about the issue of consent.In a filing made public Tuesday, Bryant’s attorneys argued that jurors should be asked to consider whether prosecutors proved the alleged victim didn’t consent to have sex with the NBA star.In his response, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said if jurors believe the victim was sexually assaulted, they have already determined that she did not consent. He argued it would be pointless to ask them separately whether she did consent.”The defendant’s instruction is an improper statement of the law and will only serve to confuse the jury on this point,” he said.Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault and said he had consensual sex with the 19-year-old woman last summer at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, where she worked. If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation and a fine up to $750,000.Legal observers generally agreed that the defense proposal didn’t change the legal definition of sexual assault, but was confusing.Bad jury instructions are one of the most common reasons convictions are overturned, defense lawyer Lisa Wayne said.Karen Steinhauser, a law professor at the University of Denver, said if prosecutors prove that Bryant forced the woman to submit to sex, there is no reason to ask them whether she consented.Craig Silverman, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor, agreed. However, he said that seemingly small details could help the defense by shifting the focus away from Bryant and making it appear the prosecution had to prove both assault and a lack of consent.”It reinforces that hurdle for the prosecution and maybe some juror will find that the prosecution cleared one hurdle and not the other,” Silverman said.Under a 1995 case decided by the state Supreme Court, prosecutors in rape cases have to prove only that an alleged victim didn’t consent, Silverman said. They don’t have to prove that a defendant didn’t know the alleged victim didn’t consent, he said.
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