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What were they thinking?

Don Rogers

The attorneys for Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape victim have done her no favors by going on television to suggest they’ll take her case from criminal to civil court.Doh! All they really accomplished was buttressing the notion that the prosecutors’ case is weak and to raise unfair but inevitable doubt over whether the young woman is, in their words (sigh), “not a gold digger.”Bad enough that an element of society that worships celebrity has made rather remarkable leaps to conclusions about the woman and shares them in the cruelest ways.Bad enough that the authorities, through mistakes and inattention in the biggest case of their careers, have done her more harm than anyone to this point.Now her own attorneys sow doubt about her determination to “pursue the truth,” as one put it, while inconvenient evidence is admitted into the trial and released to the public.With a few TV appearances, they’ve changed the woman’s position from resolutely seeking justice to a question of whether she’s really seeking something else. We’ve gone from a case that’s all about protecting society from criminal behavior to a stance that this is all only about the young woman. Thanks, guys. Great job.Attorneys Lin Wood and John Clune no doubt mean well, but they’ve made a mess for everyone even more difficult.Yes, a court clerk inadvertently sending transcripts from a hearing mostly on DNA evidence to selected news media was shameful. And releasing even an edited form of the transcripts of information that is admissible in the trial, should there be one, is regrettable. But the public by and large, and juries in particular, are smart enough to understand that these transcripts reveal one viewpoint and that the prosecution will have a different explanation, which will be made public as well in due course.Actually, the transcripts themselves bear clues in District Attorney Mark Hurlbert’s questioning of a defense DNA expert that suggest that the age of the seminal samples will likely show that the material was not fresh. A genuine pursuit of the truth for everyone concerned cannot help but include physical evidence from sexual activity within the 72-hour period of the incident with Bryant that offers other explanations for the young woman’s injuries and, yes, tests whether she’s been completely truthful with the authorities carrying this case forward.Rape shield law was designed to protect victims of sexual assault from scrutiny into their general sexual history – habits that have little bearing on whether a crime occurred during a specific incident. Accordingly, the judge ruled that the alleged victim’s sexual background would not be admissible at trial. Physical evidence is a different matter. The prosecution would have been based on a profound lie had the judge ruled differently about the 72 hours. Surely the prosecutors expected this commonsense ruling and have compelling answers. Otherwise, they should not have taken up the case in the first place. Similarly, this would be the most likely ruling in a civil trial, as well.Also, suggesting that the alleged victim might quit the criminal case and turn to civil court shows a disregard for society’s interests in justice. If Kobe Bryant indeed raped the young woman, he should be incarcerated, for the protection of “the People” in addition to punishment for committing a violent act. Not merely fined.And the lawyers’ talk show suggestions were misleading, as well. The district attorney is the one who decides whether there is a criminal case and how to prosecute it, not the alleged victim. It’s not up to her at this point.Now, in a case that’s strange enough already, we could have a scenario in which the alleged victim becomes a “hostile” witness for the prosecution. That is, she’s forced to testify even if she no longer wants to.There’s also the aspect of the cost of this case to the taxpayers in addition to the strains placed on the law enforcement and judicial systems of Eagle County involved here, too.It’s not all about the alleged victim. Not by a longshot. Too bad her lawyers have made it out to sound like that.The notion that lawsuits loom beyond the criminal case has been obvious from the beginning. There was no absolutely no good reason to talk about it at the brink of the criminal trial. The two lawyers wound up looking like nothing so much as trying to weasel a way out of that quest for the truth. Where’s the justice in that? D.R.

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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