First wave arrives to fill out questionnaires

EAGLE, Colo. -- Attorneys in Kobe Bryant's sexual assault
case are spending the weekend scrutinizing 300 questionnaires
filled out by prospective jurors, the first step in seating a panel
that will decide whether the NBA star is guilty of rape.

The questionnaires were filled out by Eagle County residents who
arrived Friday at the courthouse in waves so they did not disrupt
other business in the building.

Many shielded their faces from cameras while others smiled and
waved at reporters and photographers. Members of the media are
under a court order to stay away from the jury candidates and not
to take their pictures.

Bryant was not at the courthouse. Jury selection probably will
take most of next week. Opening statements are not expected until Sept. 7.

Bryant has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, saying
he had consensual sex with a then-19-year-old employee of the
Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. 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.

The county issued 999 jury summonses, easily the biggest jury
call in its history. About 165 could not be delivered, and about
150 people were excused primarily because they are no longer county
residents or U.S. citizens.

The prospective jurors filled out 82-item questionnaires that
defense attorneys, prosecutors and their consultants have agonized
over for weeks and will remain sealed until at least next week.

The questions include, according to a report by KCNC-TV, whether
jurors follow professional basketball, their feelings on
interracial relationships and whether they think rich people are treated
better by the courts.

State courts spokeswoman Karen Salaz declined to release the
questionnaire, which is expected to be made public Monday. She said
the questions obtained by the television station were not the final
version given to potential jurors.

Attorneys in the case will scrutinize the answers over the
weekend, developing lists of potential jurors they want eliminated
and those they want to talk to.

"They are gearing up for a very, very long couple of days,"
said Richard Gabriel, a Los Angeles-based jury consultant with
Decision Analysis.

At least in the early stages, attorneys will focus on whom to
eliminate from the pool, he said.

"Jury selection is really jury de-selection; eliminating those
people you feel would be most harmful to your case," Gabriel said.

Attorneys are expected to begin closed-door questioning of
individuals Monday, starting with 25 to 30 prospective jurors. The
same number will return Tuesday and more might be scheduled
Wednesday, depending on progress, Salaz said.

Attorneys for news organizations including The Associated Press
have asked the judge to open much of the questioning, and a hearing
on the request is scheduled Monday.

Media attorneys are also asking the judge to unseal statements
Bryant made to investigators who interviewed him the night after
the alleged attack. Defense attorneys oppose the request, saying
the evidence could hurt Bryant's right to a fair trial.

Also on Friday, another filing was released that stated Bryant's
accuser is entitled to remain anonymous in her civil case against
the star because of her privacy rights and past threats made
against her. News organizations had objected to efforts by the
woman's lawyers to seal details in the lawsuit.

The attorneys said they agreed many details in the civil case
could be released -- as long as the woman's name remains secret.
Most media organizations have not reported her name. It has
appeared online and twice been published accidentally on a state
courts Web site.