Friday, September 12, 2003
Lawyers argue Bryant's right to fair trial at stake
DENVER -- Kobe Bryant's attorneys asked a judge Friday to
close next month's preliminary hearing, saying publicity would
threaten the NBA superstar's right to a fair trial on a rape
charge. They also accused authorities of secretly recording a
statement by Bryant.
The Oct. 9 hearing will determine whether the Los Angeles Lakers
guard will stand trial on a charge of sexually assaulting a
Colorado resort worker over the summer. He has said the two had
Defense attorney Hal Haddon said the Colorado Supreme Court has
ruled that closing preliminary hearings is justified if a
defendant's right to a fair trial is at stake.
He also cited an earlier ruling to keep detailed court records
in the Bryant case sealed, saying the judge concluded there was "a
substantial probability that defendant's right to a fair trial
would be prejudiced."
Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, declined
comment and Bryant's attorneys did not return calls.
Prosecutors and attorneys for the woman are fighting defense
requests to have her testify at the hearing in Eagle and to turn
over her medical records.
Bryant, 25, is charged with sexually assaulting the 19-year-old
woman on June 30 at the Edwards resort where he was a guest and she
was an employee.
The prosecution has said it will disclose some of its evidence
at the hearing, including testimony from a detective, photographs
of injuries to the accuser, a videotaped statement she made to
investigators and an "electronically enhanced" version of an
interview Bryant gave to authorities sometime after the alleged
Prosecutors have said Bryant's statement backs up some of what
his accuser told investigators. The defense sharply criticized how
the recording was obtained and said it should be barred.
"The statement is presumptively inadmissible as trial evidence
because it is the product of a surreptitious tape recording during
the custodial interrogation of defendant without any advisement of
his Miranda rights," Haddon wrote.
"The public revelation of this potentially inadmissible
statement is a compelling ground for closing the preliminary
hearing," he said.
Closing the hearing could benefit both sides by preventing
potential jurors from hearing details and forming opinions about
the case, Denver defense attorney Dan Recht said.
"It makes sense to me that they're filing this and the argument
makes sense to me," Recht said. "It's just that there is no
precedent for it in recent memory -- but there's no precedent like
the Kobe Bryant case as far as media exposure."
The defense bid to have Bryant's accuser testify will probably
be rejected by Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett, legal experts
say. Such hearings typically require only bare-bones evidence
against the defendant for a judge to order a trial.
Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles,
said the hearing has little value for Bryant's attorneys unless the
"You can't cross-examine a piece of paper that the detective
will be reading from," Goldman said.
Earlier Friday, Bryant's accuser joined prosecutors in asking
the judge to throw out the defense subpoena seeking her testimony.
Attorney John Clune said his client does not want to testify and
the defense in Colorado criminal cases has no right to compel
testimony from alleged victims during preliminary hearings.
Clune even cited an Eagle County case last year in which
attorneys from Haddon's law firm fought a subpoena seeking to force
their teenage client to testify in a molestation case.
Attorneys from Haddon, Morgan & Foreman said the defense was on
an improper "fishing expedition" and that their client should be
spared the trauma of testifying.
Flannigan also said the defense sent out new subpoenas this week
-- to the Vail police department, Eagle County sheriff's office, the
Best Western Eagle Lodge and the Resource Center of Eagle County,
which operates a crisis hot line. She said the attorneys are also
seeking telephone records from Verizon Wireless and AT&T.