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Kobe Jury Selection Begins

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant goes back into court in Eagle, Colo., on Thursday, May 27, 2004, after a recess in a pretrial hearing in Bryant's sexual assault case. Following the hearing, Bryant was expected to fly to Los Angeles for an NBA playoff game against Minnesota. It would be the fifth time he has played in a game the night after appearing in court.(AP Photo/Chris Schneider, Pool)
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Prosecutors, defense lawyers and jury consultants will spend the weekend studying 82-question surveys filled out Friday by prospective jurors or the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case.

CBS News Correspondent Lee Frank reports many of those summoned drove up to the courthouse in the mountain area driving pickup trucks or 4x4's. All are from Eagle County.

The basketball star is accused of sexually assaulting a resort worker last summer.

The media has been barred from the courthouse until opening statements begin, probably Sept. 7.

After 14 months of sordid headlines and days of hearings, determining what questions to ask prospective jurors is critical to both sides as they begin jockeying to seat jurors they believe are sympathetic to their arguments.

Jury selection in this case is going to be difficult but not impossible for the lawyers and the judge, says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.

"No one is going to expect a potential juror to say that he or she has never heard of Kobe Bryant or this rape case," he said. "The hope is that they can find jurors who know about the case but who are willing to hear and see the evidence with an open mind and from a blank slate."

What the defense wants, jury consultant Mark Mazzarrella told CBS News' The Early Show, "is liberal, well-educated, open-minded people who aren't going to be biased and prejudiced because he's black."

There aren't many blacks in Eagle County, he told co-anchor Julie Chen, so chances are they won't get any on the jury.

"They want people who aren't going to be shocked by rough sex so they don't want prudes, they want people who have had a lot of life experiences and people who have had, in one way or another, a little bit of a character that is a little bit out of the ordinary."

The prosecution, Mazzarrella said, wants practically the opposite.

"The prosecution wants people who are very straight-laced, very conservative," he said. "They don't have anything in their entire life that was ever extraordinary and they worked the same job for 30 years and the same marriage for 30 years. They want real stable people."

But they don't want complete conservatives, Mazzarrella said.

"What they don't want is people who are going to be harsh with that particular situation where you have the complaining victim with her sexual history coming in, at least as to three days and it's not very flattering, you don't want older women who historically are very critical of younger women who put themselves in those positions."

Bryant, 26, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, saying he had consensual sex with the then-19-year-old employee of a Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.

Of the 999 jury summonses mailed out earlier this month, 165 could not be delivered and 150 people were excused primarily because they are no longer county residents or U.S. citizens, state courts spokeswoman Karen Salaz said.

"This is the start of a weeding-out process," said Cohen. "Right now hundreds of jurors are qualified to serve and the goal for the lawyers and the judge for the next week or so will be to whittle down that list to a dozen with a few alternates before opening statements after Labor Day."

Attorneys were expected to begin closed-door questioning of individual candidates Monday, but attorneys for news organizations including CBS News and the Associated Press asked the judge to open much of those sessions. A hearing on that request was scheduled for Monday.

Attorney Christopher Beall said the First Amendment requires courts to open jury selection procedures to the public. He said portions of the questioning can be closed to the public if a potential juror asks for a private hearing to answer questions regarding his or her personal history.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are refining their request for a hearing so they can challenge DNA evidence the defense says shows the accuser had sex with someone else hours after leaving Bryant.

During a hearing Thursday, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle chastised prosecutors for waiting until the last minute to file a request he said was incomplete. He said he should deny it because the hearing would likely delay the trial, but then gave prosecutors until Tuesday to file a new request with more information.

Prosecutor Dana Easter told Ruckriegle that DNA test results from laboratories hired by Bryant's attorneys indicate there was contamination in control samples intended to ensure accurate testing.

She said that threw into question the reliability of conclusions made by defense DNA expert Elizabeth Johnson, who has testified she believes the accuser had sex with someone else soon after her encounter with Bryant. The woman's attorneys have denied that claim.

Easter said she could not have questioned the results earlier because the defense dragged its feet in providing information needed to evaluate DNA test results.

"We have acted as well as we can," she told the judge. "The prosecution has not had $12 million to pay for experts."

Defense attorney Hal Haddon said prosecutors' requests for the hearing and for information he says has already been provided them were made primarily to inflame public opinion on the eve of trial.

"These motions are humbugs designed to distract us from trial preparation, designed to generate cheap headlines and most of all designed to confuse the jury," he said.

Ruckriegle ordered prosecutors to turn over laboratory logs of actions taken to correct any problems.