The Florida woman who charges William Kennedy Smith raped her was to face his lawyers for the first time today when she begins three days of questioning under oath.
But attorneys for the 30-year-old single mother have told the court their client would refuse to answer any questions about her sexual history. If the judge orders the woman to respond, her lawyers have said they plan an immediate appeal that could delay the trial, set to start Oct. 30.
"This is in no way intended as a threat or anything else," Douglas N. Duncan said to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary E. Lupo in July. But "the victim has a right to appeal that order."
Smith's attorneys plan to ask her about her psychiatric, medical and employment histories. The court has limited defense access to such records after prosecutors and her attorneys objected.
Smith's lawyers have argued that the woman falsely accused the 31-year-old doctor of rape because she suffers from a psychiatric disorder due to her past relationships with men and from the emotional impact of multiple abortions.
Sources close to the Kennedy family also say the defense will try to establish that the woman feared becoming pregnant through consensual sex with Smith and that is what prompted the accusations after the March 30 incident at the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach.
Even if granted emergency status, any pre-trial appeal of the judge's rulings could take weeks or even months.
Under Florida criminal law, prosecutors and defense attorneys are permitted to take depositions from the other side's witnesses before trial. Although these depositions are usually made public, Lupo has ordered that the woman's deposition remain sealed until the jury is sequestered.
Defense lawyers repeatedly have said they cannot conduct the rape shield hearing -- which will decide what, if any, of the woman's sexual background will come before the jury at trial -- without first questioning her about details of her sexual past. Since the outcome of the hearing could determine the scope of prosecution and defense questioning of prospective jurors, jury selection also could face a setback.