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Wednesday, August 25, 2004  

Law: Bryant prosecutors attack DNA evidence

There is an interesting new twist in the controversial prosecution of basketball star Kobe Bryant for rape. Prosecutors have asked for a hearing at which they hope to have important evidence thrown out as unreliable. Voir dire (jury selection) is set to begin next week. However, this development could delay it, and the start of the trial.

CNN is covering the case.

DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Crucial DNA evidence tested by defense experts in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case might have been contaminated, prosecutors said in a court filing released Wednesday, just two days before jury selection is to begin.

Prosecutors said they had found contamination in DNA "control" samples intended to ensure testing was accurate. They also said data from the defense's experts appears to have been manipulated.

Prosecutors asked the judge to hold a hearing Thursday to force the NBA star's attorneys to prove the reliability of the evidence intended to be presented at trial by defense experts.

If the evidence were to be excluded, that would favor the prosecution. The victim, according to leaked and mistakenly released information, had sex with at least one other man between the time of the alleged rape and the next day. Then, she went to a hospital. The physical evidence prosecutors are offering is from that examination. It allegedly proves Bryant had intercourse with the woman. If there was a second partner, his DNA is also likely present. But, if the "control" test was contaminated, then all DNA evidence could be excluded under the rules of evidence. That would include evidence of the second sexual partner. If the evidence is excluded, there will be no basis for the theory that the victim was sexually active with another man, and he might have caused bruising or other injury, being introduced. That is important because of the inferences jurors might make in regard to a rape victim who claims to be have been brutally assaulted, but went on to have sexual intercourse with another man the same night. Jurors would question how severely she was injured, whether she considered the incident rape at the time and if she might have other reasons for filing criminal charges against a wealthy man.

It is doubtful the evidence -- which is very significant -- will be excluded. Indeed the maneuver may be a mark of the prosecution's desperation. Leaks of information, publicity about the victim's instability and the successful efforts of Bryant's crack legal team have evened the balance of power between the adversaries. Normally, a criminal defendant does not have the economic resources needed to defend himself in a legal system weighted against him and in favor of the state. The Kobe Bryant case gives us an opportunity to see the difference affluence makes when a citizen responds to a criminal prosecution.

11:55 PM