Attorney Andrew Cohen analyzes legal issues for CBS News and CBS News.com.
So, you want to be a juror in the Kobe Bryant rape case? You want to put your life on hold for about a month or so? You want to sift through scientific testimony that will be as boring as it is important? You want a bunch of reporters staking out your house and tracking down your relatives? You want to avoid for a month any meaningful, relevant conversations with the people most important to you? You want to hold the fate of two young people in your hands? Great. Welcome to Eagle County District Court.
You are going to hear from a lot of witnesses who are going to tell you many stories about what did or did not happen between Kobe Bryant and his alleged victim on the night of June 30, 2003. You are going to hear from a lot of people who will tell you a lot about both of the people at the center of this fight. You are going to hear from more than a few law enforcement officials and expert witnesses. You are going to hear the word "semen" more than you ever wanted to. And in the end there are going to be a few themes that stick out from the rest. Here's a preview of a few of those themes and the arguments that will track them.
Claim: Kobe Bryant's accuser had sex with another man shortly after her encounter with Bryant. The defense wants you to believe that their client's accuser had sex with another man after she had sex with Bryant and that it was this other man who caused the minor injuries the alleged victim says were caused by Bryant. The source of those injuries is important because one of the elements of the crime is "use of force." As an additional benefit for the defense, Bryant's lawyers hope that you as jurors think it is bizarre that the young woman would have wanted to have consensual sex just hours after she says she was raped.
Prosecutors are ready to tell you, first, that an honest difference of opinion exists about whether Bryant's alleged victim had sex with someone else after her encounter with Bryant and before her rape examination. They'll tell you that the forensic experts disagree about the presence of another man's semen on the alleged victim and on her underwear. Also, they'll tell you that it is not unusual for a rape victim, suffering from shock and trauma, to seek solace with someone else. Either the defense theory makes sense or the prosecution's theory does and you'll have to choose.
Claim: Kobe Bryant is a sexual predator who has a pattern of the very kind of behavior with which he is accused in this case. Comes word this week that prosecutors are contemplating using at trial the testimony of a Florida woman who says Bryant groped her and leered at her at a party in 2002. The most important thing to say about this news nugget is that it is not at all certain that this witness ever will get to tell her story to you. Bryant's prosecutors told the judge earlier in the case that they did not intend to call to the stand witnesses who would testify about any "prior bad acts" Bryant purportedly committed. Both the judge and Bryant's lawyers relied upon that representation and it's hard to see a legal scenario that would get prosecutors past this hurdle.
But let's say, for the sake of argument, that this story gets to you, the jury, during the course of the trial. Prosecutors will spin it as an example of Bryant's predatory nature. They'll say it shows that he was not an innocent victim of a star-struck woman in Eagle last June. They'll say the 2002 incident helps proves a pattern that is incriminating to Bryant. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, will say that the 2002 incident, even if true, shows that Bryant knew how to take "no" for an answer; that the conduct, even if inappropriate, doesn't make him a rapist. Both theories cannot be right and you'll have to choose between the two.
Claim: The young woman consented to sex with Kobe Bryant and then yelled rape after the encounter was revealed. Since Bryant already has conceded that he had sex with his accuser, the "consent" issue is the core of the case for both sides. Prosecutors say that the young woman consented to make out with Bryant but then said "no" when he pushed to go further. Defense attorneys say that the young woman consented all along or else did not object to the sex in a way that any reasonable person would have taken as a "no."
Again, this is why the evidence of injuries, and who may have caused them, is so important to the case. Prosecutors want you to believe that Bryant caused the injuries when he imposed his will on the younger, smaller woman. Bryant's attorneys say either that the alleged victim's injuries were caused by the men she had sex with before or after Bryant or that the injuries are so relatively minor that they do not necessarily imply rape as opposed to rough sex between two fit, young people. Again, both theories cannot be right and you'll have to choose between the two. Good luck.
by Andrew Cohen
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