Bryant judge denies move to halt hearing

Prosecution will appeal ruling on rape-shield law

March 03, 2004|By Steve Henson | Steve Henson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

EAGLE, Colo. - The judge in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case denied a prosecution attempt to halt the evidentiary hearing on the rape-shield law yesterday, and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert indicated he will appeal the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Judge Terry Ruckriegle also denied for a second time a motion to limit the scope of questions that defense attorneys will be allowed to ask the woman accusing Bryant of rape.

The Supreme Court could consider overturning that ruling as well, according to prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan. First, however, the high court must decide whether it will hear the appeal, a decision that could be made as soon as tomorrow.

The appeal is not expected to delay proceedings that already have taken eight months. The next scheduled hearings are March 24 and March 25. Additional pretrial hearing dates were set for April 26, 27 and 28, should they be necessary.

Even as the decision to appeal was being made, the rape-shield evidentiary hearing began as scheduled yesterday in closed court with testimony from several former classmates of Bryant's accuser when she attended the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the woman's sexual and mental health history is an exception to Colorado's stringent rape-shield law and therefore admissible at trial.

Other developments occurred outside the courtroom.

A forensics expert said it is nearly impossible to determine the age of semen taken in a rape examination, calling into question a defense allegation that the accuser had sex with another man less than 15 hours after she said she was raped by the Lakers star.

Also, an attorney representing the 19-year-old woman issued a statement saying his client did not have sex after the encounter with Bryant and that "anyone trying to prove otherwise will be chasing ghosts."

Bryant, 25, met the woman June 30 at a resort hotel in Edwards where she worked. He says they had consensual sex.

The defense believes the woman's sexual conduct in the days surrounding the alleged assault is an exception to the rape-shield law because it offers an alternative source for her vaginal trauma.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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