Coach Dean Smith of North Carolina was renowned for his four-corner offense. Four players would set up in the outer reaches of the offensive end of the basketball court while the best dribbler ran around in an effort to keep the ball away from the opponents. No effort was made to score. It was stall ball. It was so tedious that college basketball instituted a shot clock. Few people like to watch slow play.
The Kobe Bryant court case has recently slowed to a glacial pace. The Nov. 13 arraignment hearing was tedious and relatively uneventful. No plea was even entered. Who is responsible for the slow pace of play? Team Kobe claimed it was only following the rules of District Judge Terry Ruckriegle, who apparently does not like "not guilty" pleas when a defendant first appears in his District Court.
"We have decided to follow the court's usual procedure and not enter a plea as of today," defense attorney Pamela Mackey said.
Why would a chief judge have a policy like that? It could be much like the reason that there are now metered lights on the entrance ramps to Interstate 25. Too many cars too fast clog a highway. "Not guilty" pleas put cases on the fast judicial highway. Defendant's speedy trial rights start to run when they say "not guilty" and the state needs to hold a trial within six months or set the defendant free. If you can put off "not guilty" pleas, some cases simply go away by plea bargains or dismissals, and the judicial highway becomes less crowded.
Dozens of motions will need to be decided before this trial occurs. Some motions have been carried over from County Court. Lots of others will be filed within 30 days. They will take considerable time to resolve.
One new and interesting issue emerged in District Court discussions. Team Kobe expressed concern that the government may destroy critical evidence in the process of scientific testing. That could be a due process violation. We know of several small items of evidence which could be subjected to (further) testing -- a Caucasian pubic hair, stains on the white underwear worn during her encounter with Kobe, stains on the yellow underwear she wore to Valley View Hospital for the post-rape exam.
Failure to allow the defense to participate in destructive forensic testing can lead to sanctions on the prosecution, including suppression and possible dismissal. Here is some Colorado law regarding the issue of destructive forensic testing:
Whether evidence resulting from such destructive testing should be suppressed depends upon the existence of three factors: (1) that the destructive testing occurred without giving the defendant either an opportunity to participate in the testing process or without making available to the defendant, upon his request, a portion of the sample, in order that he might perform his own tests; (2) that defendant is able to demonstrate that the evidence he sought to produce as a result of the testing process would be favorable to his case; and (3) that such evidence would be material and admissible. Only if all three factors are present is there a due process violation.
- Nov. 12, 2003: Craig's Court: A Lawyer's Blog On The Bryant Case