Kobe's Lawyers Score Again

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant reacts after hitting the game-winning basket in the Lakers' 101-99 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday, Dec. 19, 2003, in Los Angeles. Bryant was in court for a pretrial hearing on his sexual assualt charge in Eagle, Colo., earlier Friday and missed the first quarter.
Kobe Bryant's lawyers will be allowed to ask the 19-year-old woman accusing him of rape about previous sexual partners as they try to back up their claim that she had a "scheme" to sleep with the NBA star.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday denied a prosecution appeal and cleared the way for a two-day hearing in which Bryant's attorneys will ask her detailed questions about her sexual history.

The court denied the appeal without comment, which means the woman will testify behind closed doors beginning March 24. The only part of the hearing expected to be open will be arguments on the rape-shield law, which Bryant's attorneys have challenged as unconstitutional.

The law is intended to restrict questioning about an alleged rape victim's sexual history, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Frank, but in this case, Bryant's lawyers had argued it was relevant to show that other partners could have caused injuries and to challenge the woman's credibility.

Prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said he was dismayed by the ruling.

"We continue to have great concern about the humiliation the victim is being asked to endure at the hands of the criminal justice system," Hurlbert said in a statement. "Furthermore, future victims may not report their victimization for fear of similar humiliation."

Defense attorney Pamela Mackey did not return a call seeking comment. An attorney for the woman declined comment.

Bryant, 25, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of felony sexual assault. He has said the two had consensual sex last June at the Vail-area resort where she worked and he was a guest.

Hurlbert had sought to limit the questioning, saying the woman would suffer irreparable harm by forcing her to testify about private matters protected under the state's rape-shield law.

"Basically the defense argument as to questioning the victim and her alleged partners about many of the alleged incidents amounts to nothing more than she has said 'yes' to others, therefore it is more likely she said `yes' to defendant," Hurlbert wrote in his appeal. "This is precisely the type of evil which the statute was enacted to eradicate."

However, state District Judge Terry Ruckriegle denied prosecution requests to halt the hearing and bar detailed questioning about the woman's sexual activities from the summer of 2002 to August 2003.

Although prosecutors will fight to keep a jury from hearing about the sexual activities of Bryant's accuser, Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, said the hearing will be a rehearsal for what the woman can expect when she testifies at trial.

"They aren't going to grind her into hamburger meat, but they're going to show her this is not fun and games and that the defense is devoted to its client," he said. "His freedom and liberty are at stake."

Cynthia Stone of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault said the loss of privacy is one of the key reasons assault victims don't pursue charges. She said Bryant's accuser will be the subject of a "horrendous fishing expedition" at the hands of the defense.

Hurlbert wanted questioning limited to the three days surrounding the alleged assault and the source of semen found in her underwear during the hospital exam. Authorities say the semen was not from Bryant.

Bryant's attorneys, however, say the information is important because it will show the woman had a "plan" to have sex with Bryant, perhaps to win the attention of an ex-boyfriend.

The defense has also suggested the woman was injured during sex with someone else, saying she had multiple partners during the week of her encounter with Bryant, including someone within 15 hours afterward. The woman's attorney, John Clune, has called that claim "patently false."