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Media Lawyers Argue for Releasing Kobe Bryant Documents

Aired July 31, 2003 - 19:09   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving on, there was another hearing today in the Kobe Bryant case. The NBA star is accused, of course, of sexually assaulting an employee at a Colorado resort.
Now at today's hearing in Eagle, Colorado, news media lawyers asked the judge to unseal court records.

Rusty Dornin has the latest.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Prosecutors say already this case is being unfairly tried in the court of public opinion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bryant is different. He is a high profile super star known by the world. And because of that, his case, unlike all these cases, is reported daily. Because of that, the abuse that can be -- that can occur from the release of those records is enormous.

DORNIN: Media attorneys argued the ongoing investigation won't be harmed because Bryant has already been arrested. And the public should learn how and why he was accused and whether the investigation was handled properly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have the public officials charged with their duties here violated their duties, abrogated their responsibilities? The public has a need to know.

DORNIN: Media attorneys went on to say that Kobe Bryant waived his right to privacy when he made this statement on international television.

KOBE BRYANT, ACCUSED OF RAPE: I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent.

DORNIN: Bryant's defense team claims you can't put the genii back into the bottle. Once information is released, the damage would be done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court has said time and time again an impartial jury is a jury that hears the evidence for the first time on the witness stand and not from other sources.

(END VIDEOTAPE) DORNIN: What's interesting is sometimes in these hearings we hear things we haven't heard before officially and that is that the victim in this case has received threatening letters and apparently telephone calls.

Also we have just learned that apparently Kobe Bryant was trying not to appear next week. He was filed for a waiver for the August 6 hearing. The judge has turned him down, so August 6 will be the first time that Kobe Bryant will appear in court -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Rusty Dornin, thanks for the new information.

Now, the case against Kobe Bryant centers on the events that took place nearly a decade -- or excuse me, nearly a month ago.

On June 30 at 11 p.m. Bryant's accuser got off duty. Thirty minutes she went to his room. Now, at 12 noon the next day the accuser reported the incident, went to a hospital and then at 11:30 p.m., investigators interviewed Bryant and collected evidence at his hotel room.

I should also point out that on July 2 at 3 a.m. Bryant provided samples of DNA.

According to reports in other news media quoting unnamed sources, the contact between Bryant and his accuser started out as consensual, then became nonconsensual. CNN, we should point out, has not confirmed those reports.

Let's bring in Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom and San Francisco assistant district attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.

I appreciate both of you joining us.

Kimberly, let's start off with you. How significant is this report in other media outlets that the contact allegedly started off consensual and then nonconsensual?

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO ASSISTANT D.A.: I think it is important, and the defense is going to try and make a lot out of this and point out, that in fact, this is something to be expected and consistent with the statement, in a way, that Kobe Bryant has made.

I think this moves the case into the gray zone, where it becomes more closely aligned with a date rape or acquaintance rape situation. And jurors are going to have trouble distinguishing between if she willingly went up to the room and then engaged in some kind of consensual intimate contact. At what point, then, does no mean no?

But again, as a prosecution person, they're going to say no means no whether it's in the bedroom or in the courtroom.

COOPER: Because the law -- Lisa, I'm going to get your opinion here -- the law on the books says with sexual assault even if the sex does start off as consensual, if the person says no, no means no. LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Sex without consent is rape in Colorado, it's rape everywhere.

And Anderson, I went back today and looked at the complaint filed in this case. There's a couple of important words there. Physical force and physical violence. That's what was alleged against Kobe Bryant.

She may have consented to one type of sexual act. When another type of sexual act began she said no and according to the complaint there was physical violence. I think that's something the jury will be impressed by.

COOPER: Kimberly, you tried a lot of cases. You've been a prosecutor a lot of places.

How important is -- what is legally on the books and then what comes in front of a jury, I mean, it has to be filtered through the juror's heart and brain. Do juries look at -- If they look at, OK, if contact was consensual, does all of a sudden that raise red flags for them?

NEWSOM: Well, I think it is going to be troubling. And I think maybe in particular for some female jurors that tend to judge other women more harshly in situations...

COOPER: Is that true? Female jurors do?

NEWSOM: ... in sexual assault cases. Absolutely, you'd be very surprised. And in fact, in this case, where you have a woman agreeing, going up to his room and then engaging in some kind of consensual contact.

Kobe Bryant is going to say, "It was unclear. I was uncertain as to whether or not anything was improper between us. It seemed like everything was fine." In fact, he already made that statement.

But again, what Lisa pointed out is true. The D.A. has said from the beginning that they have physical and testimonial evidence that hopefully will be compelling for the jurors in this case to understand that this was not appropriate conduct.

COOPER: But -- go ahead.

BLOOM: I want to point out the D.A. did not have to file a class 3 sexual assault, i.e. physical violence. That's what he chose to do...

COOPER: The law doesn't require that.

BLOOM: He could have chosen class 4 sexual assault in Colorado, which is simply sex without consent, i.e. psychological coercion. He did not choose that option. It's a lesser included offense. The jury could come back with a rape conviction even without physical violence.

But I think he's got those lab results. There's a criminologist on the witness list, the sexual assault nurse examiner is on the witness list. I think there's got to be compelling physical evidence for this prosecutor, who took two weeks to decide to file these charges or not, before he decided to go forward.

COOPER: How significant is past conduct, past behavior? I mean, you know, there's been so much in the news about these reported 911 calls. I mean, is that going to end up anywhere near the courtroom?

NEWSOM: No. It has no place in the courtroom. It comes not into bearing at all in terms of what happened between these two individuals on June 30.

And in fact, the defense is going to try and raise all these issues that have been bandied about in the press. It's inappropriate. Her mental health history or any prior incidents that she had are not proper in front of the jury in this case. This case should be tried on the fact of what occurred between those two individuals.

COOPER: But a defense lawyer can easily say, look, if this person, this you know, alleged victim, has a history of reacting badly to events, then why shouldn't it be -- brought out?

BLOOM: Well, that's different than prior sexual conduct. Rape shield laws prevent the defense attorney from bringing any of her prior sexual activity, consensual or nonconsensual.

COOPER: But...

BLOOM: If you're talking about her history of supposed mental instability, of going to a mental health hospital, you're right, that might come in to show some kind of mental stability.

The jury will have to decide, again, whether the physical evidence is important enough to outweigh some problems this woman's had in the past. But hasn't everyone had a problem? Is there any crime victim in this country who has a perfect past who comes to the court with a clean slate? And I think jurors understand that.

NEWSOM: What would be relevant is if, in fact, she made any previous false accusations of rape or inappropriate sexual conduct. Then that would come into play, definitely, in the court room.

And to the extent that her mental health difficulties and traumas that she's had in the past in would affect any kind of statement, truthful or not, then that would be important. And the defense is going to look to try to obtain that information.

BLOOM: But there are also reports of Kobe changing his statement and giving inconsistent statements to the police, at first saying nothing at all happened, after DNA tests were administered, saying consensual sexual happened.

Consistent with what he did in the media, first saying nothing happened, then changing in his press conference two weeks ago to saying something happened. And that will go to affect his credibility. COOPER: There's so much floating out there, though, so much unconfirmed reports, so many innuendos and rumors. What is the bottom line thing that the prosecution needs to focus on right now?

NEWSOM: The prosecution needs to focus just on the victim's statement, the statement that she made right after the incident occurred, fresh complaint, that she made, and, in fact, the physical evidence. Try and keep the rest of the stuff out.

What I think is going to be huge in this case is when, and I think Kobe Bryant will take the stand, he will be impeached with those prior inconsistent statements and it's going to come down to a credibility call between the victim and Kobe Bryant.

COOPER: Final thought, Lisa?

BLOOM: Final thought is that I think the most important issue today is the unsealing of documents. There's a media frenzy in this case. Whether the sides of this case like it or not, the question is will it be based on facts and evidence or on further rumor and speculation?

We're not going to go away. We're not going to stop reporting on it, and I think the evidence in the case should be turned over so we can talk about what the facts are.

COOPER: All right. Lisa Bloom, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, thanks very much.


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