Kobe Defense Gets Win On Briefs

L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant leaves the Justice Center Thursday, Oct. 9, 2003 in Eagle Co. with his attorney Harold Haddon after attending a preliminary court hearing for a case in which he faces charges of sexual assault. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
AP
The judge in Kobe Bryant's rape trial on Monday ordered prosecutors to turn over two pairs of his accuser's underwear, a move defense attorneys say will help them exonerate the NBA star.

A key two-day hearing opened with the defense repeatedly saying the underwear is exculpatory evidence that will prove their claim that the woman had sex with other men before or perhaps after her encounter with Bryant. The defense says injuries discovered on the woman could have been caused by someone other than the Los Angeles Lakers guard.

State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said the underwear — worn by the accuser the night of the alleged attack and the next day when she went to a hospital for an examination — must be turned over to the defense within 24 hours.

After listening to prosecution arguments, Ruckriegle rolled his eyes, then issued his order, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Frank.

"The court finds the prosecution's refusal to turn over the evidence to be without merit," the judge said.

The prosecution turned over all other physical evidence by Saturday's deadline. Defense attorney Hal Haddon said in court Monday the material includes three samples of semen that don't match Bryant. Prosecutor Mark Hurlbert objected at that point, and the conversation ceased.

Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of sexual assault. He says he and the resort worker had consensual sex last summer.

Besides the physical evidence and arguments over whether Bryant's statement to police can be admitted as evidence, the hearing in large part will focus on the 19-year-old accuser.

The woman is expected to testify in the case for the first time Tuesday, though what she says is expected to be limited. It will be the first time since their June 30 encounter that she and Bryant have been in the same room.

Attorneys are fighting over several things related to the accuser, including whether her sexual history should be barred as evidence under Colorado's strict rape-shield law and whether she waived her medical confidentiality rights so that the defense can make her purported suicide attempts and prescription medications an issue at trial.

Prosecutors want the defense lawyers sharply limited in what they can ask the woman on Tuesday. Whatever she says will be behind closed doors.

In attacking the rape-shield law, Haddon and Pamela Mackey have argued that it violates a defendant's right of equal protection. They said under state law, prior sexual conduct of an alleged sexual assault victim is presumed irrelevant, while the prior sexual conduct of a defendant is presumed relevant.

Legal experts have said they doubt Bryant's attorneys will succeed because the rape-shield law has withstood previous challenges in its 30-year history.