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Kobe Lawyers Want Case Dismissed

NBA star Kobe Bryant walks down the hallway during a morning break from a pretrial hearing at the Eagle County Courthouse, Monday June 21, 2004, in Eagle, Colo. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
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Attorneys for NBA star Kobe Bryant asked the judge to dismiss the sexual assault charge against him, saying prosecutors have refused to turn over details that could suggest he is innocent.

Court rules require prosecutors and defense attorneys to exchange evidence and witness opinions before trial, a process called discovery.

In a motion made public Wednesday, defense attorneys said a forensics expert whom prosecutors had planned to call as a witness had information that "undermined the accuser's allegations and the prosecution's case, and corroborated Mr. Bryant's defense on a central issue — the cause and significance of the accuser's alleged injuries."

The filing said those opinions were not disclosed to the defense until they contacted the expert Friday, despite repeated requests to prosecutors for the information. Prosecutors have said they have turned over all information they were required to.

"A person's life and liberty are at stake," the defense attorneys wrote. "The game of hide-the-ball, find-it-if-you-can discovery is intolerable."

The judge gave prosecutors until Tuesday — the day opening statements are scheduled to begin — to respond to the defense motion.

"Judges hate to dismiss cases on the eve of trial, but it is likely that Judge Terry Ruckriegle will do something to prosecutors if he believes that they did hide this information from the defense. He could preclude prosecutors from presenting certain evidence of their own, or tell jurors about what happened, or otherwise punish the DA and his office," says CBSNews.com legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

"The issue of consent is the issue in the case and this dispute goes to the core of that fight. If a man prosecutors once wanted as their own expert now is saying that the alleged victim's injuries could have been caused by consensual sex, and when you combine that with credibility questions that already exist about the alleged victim you already are close to reasonable doubt," says Cohen.

Defense attorneys asked that the judge either dismiss the case or bar prosecutors from introducing any expert testimony relating to the accuser's injuries.

The motion does not identify the expert, but prosecutors this spring had said they planned to call former New York City medical examiner Michael Baden to testify about the woman's injuries.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said during a July 19 hearing that he had decided against using Baden. He did not elaborate. Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan declined to comment, citing a gag order imposed by the judge.

The motion was first reported by ABC News, which cited unidentified sources who said Baden told prosecutors the woman's injuries could have been caused by consensual sex. A message left for Baden was not immediately returned.

Motions to dismiss on the eve of trial are not uncommon and often are unsuccessful, said Scott Robinson, a defense attorney familiar with the case. He said the judge likely will schedule a hearing quickly because if such motions are granted after a jury is sworn in, charges cannot be refiled.

Bryant, 26, has said he had consensual sex with a then-19-year-old employee of a Vail-area resort where he stayed last summer. If convicted of felony sexual assault, he would face four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.

Meanwhile, the last round of questioning of individual jury candidates resumed Wednesday. In all, 160 prospective jurors have been questioned through Tuesday with 40 more to go.

Open-court jury selection is expected to begin Thursday, with opening statements scheduled for Tuesday. The jury will include 12 panelists and two alternates.