Craig's Court: Fishing In The Right Spots

Posted March 15, 2004

That was one mighty quick appeal. In less time than it seemingly takes for some NFL penalty calls to be reviewed, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected the DA's challenge to the ongoing rape shield hearing.

Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert sanctimoniously responded, "I recognize that requests for petitions to be heard by the court are rarely granted, and we respect the court's decision. However, we continue to have great concern about the humiliation the victim is being asked to endure at the hands of the criminal justice system. Furthermore, future victims may not report their victimization for fear of similar humiliation."

Speaking of humiliation, did Mr. Hurlbert sufficiently pause to think what his charging decision did to Kobe Bryant? This teenage accuser would not have been humiliated but for the DA's fateful filing decision which put her into the criminal justice system. Who is really to blame for the impact on future true rape victims?

Very few future sexual assault victims will be vulnerable to the extent this young lady apparently is. Will there nevertheless be repercussions on future rape victims? You bet. An underreported crime might become even more so.

No sane person could blame the defense for creating this situation. Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon have an ethical duty to fully investigate and defend this case.

Prosecutors are ethically supposed to play the high stakes game of criminal justice with their cards exposed. Any evidence which might tend to be exculpatory needs to be revealed. It is part of constitutional due process as determined in 1963 by the United States Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland.

Team Kobe has now filed a motion for discovery and brady material which sets forth a laundry list of information it claims the prosecution is wrongfully withholding. With Kobe Bryant's lead investigator David Williams and his experienced and well-financed team, the defense has likely learned a lot of things before the prosecution reveals them.

We have previously seen Team Kobe play the inevitable race card. Now, the equally inevitable money card is being shown. It is a logical play. Good questions are being asked. Is there a book deal in the works? How did pseudo-author Jeff Shapiro get access to so much inside material that only the victim or her lawyers could provide? Speaking of her lawyers, are they working on a contingency fee in hopes of a big jackpot at the end of the litigation?

And what about Eagle County Victim Compensation money? How much has this local teenager received and for what? Certain expenses of violent crime victims are routinely paid. Mental health counseling is one such authorized expense but there is usually a limit in number of visits (20-24) and amount to be paid per session ($75-80). This money primarily comes from a fund financed by convicted felons and misdemeanants.

Like every other government agency, there is not enough money currently to go around. Restrictions and limitations do apply. Most jurisdictions have a limit on how much any one victim can receive ($10,000 - $15,000). It is unprecedented for an alleged victim to receive funds for in house alcohol or drug rehabilitation. Team Kobe seems to suggest that is what has occurred here.

Why does money matter? Because people like money. People do strange things when motivated by riches. Some people will lie or color the truth for greenbacks. Team Kobe will argue that any money paid to his accuser is something the jury should be allowed to consider when assessing credibility.

You almost had to believe that the alleged victim's lawyers felt money slipping away when they so emphatically and publicly asserted that their client did not have sex between the time of her encounter with Kobe Bryant and when she went to the cops. It was a clear violation of Judge Ruckriegle's prior gag order. Mark Hurlbert's extra-judicial statements quoted above also seemed to be a violation.

So what did the Judge do to punish these transgressions? He issued another warning. This was probably a very smart move. Had the Court imposed sanctions now, this sideshow might have taken over the circus.

The focus has to be on the upcoming trial. The remaining motions hearings will continue to shape the evidence to be heard at that trial. Expect the prosecution to argue that this latest defense motion for discovery is just another fishing expedition. Indeed it is, but something tells me that the defense knows some good fishing holes. If this defense motion pulls out some big fish, then the odds of a conviction become extremely remote.

SPORTS RELATED POSTSCRIPT

If Kobe Bryant has a guilty conscience, you could never tell by the performance he gave while this weblog was being typed. Like a good trial lawyer, he is capable of playing both good offense and defense. He also gave one hell of a closing argument in tonight's game.

Craig Silverman is a legal analyst for 7NEWS. He will be contributing his thoughts on the Kobe Bryant case in the months to come. He works for the downtown Denver law firm of Silverman and Olivas, P.C., which you can contact through their Web site or by calling (303) 595-0529. You can read Craig's bio here.

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