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Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Beefier guards, attorney bickering on display

By Shelley Smith
Special to ESPN.com

During preliminary hearings for the last 14 months, we watched Kobe Bryant roll up to the Eagle County Courthouse in one of three Suburbans, which also carried his attorneys and bodyguards. Several sheriff's deputies would stand watch while the group emerged and walked through metal detectors and into the courthouse.

Now, however, as opening arguments loom, Bryant is taken to the back of the building and he has a new set of bigger, meaner-looking bodyguards who stand outside the holding room he waits in until called in to the courtroom.

It is, no doubt, a calculated security move considering that more than 205 potential jurors are expected to be questioned individually behind closed doors and in public over the next few days.

Tuesday's proceedings were largely held, again, in private, but for an hour in open court [based on a prosecution motion to reconsider interpretation and application] we were able to learn a few things:

  • That some prospective jurors answered "definitely guilty and probably guilty" when asked on the questionnaire about their opinion of Bryant based on what they had heard or been told. And that some answered, "probably not guilty and definitely not guilty"

  • That the First Amendment has put the judge in an uncomfortable position. The judge said he is opening questioning to the media on Wednesday because he is sworn to uphold the Constitution, even though it goes against what he personally believes is the right way to do things.

  • That the defense and prosecution teams hate each other.

    The gloves are coming off and the arguments are getting personal. Ingrid Bakke, an expert in sexual assault on loan from the Boulder County's DA's office, took the offensive Tuesday with Bryant attorney Hal Haddon, who responded in kind. Their legal maneuverings, with a mindful eye on the media in the courtroom, were filled with accusations and obvious contempt.

    Neither side won, really, but points were made that tell us there is a lot more to come.

    ESPN reporter Shelley Smith has been covering the events leading to the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case since July 2003.