DA appealing Ruckriegle ruling to Supreme Court
Crittenden, left, walk out of the courtroom with prosecutor Dana Easter, center, following a pretrial hearing Tuesday.|AP Photo| |
EAGLE – Basketball star Kobe Bryant’s alleged rape victim will be questioned about her sexual history, probably during hearings later this month, District Judge Terry Ruckriegle ruled Tuesday.
The Breckenridge-based judge handed down two rulings:
n First, he will hold a hearing in which Bryant’s defense team, Pamela Mackey and Harold Haddon, can challenge whether Colorado’s rape shield is unconstitutional.
n Second, he denied a prosecution motion to limit the line of questioning Bryant’s accuser will face when she testifies during hearings, probably March 24-25.
Ruckriegle originally denied the motion Monday morning, saying prosecutors had not been timely when they responded to a defense motion filed two and a half months earlier.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert, also of Breckenridge, announced right away he would appeal Ruckriegle’s denial to the state Supreme Court, an avenue open to prosecutors in criminal cases.
Tuesday’s rulings were made public following an entire day of private hearings, dealing with the three main issues. How Ruckriegle finally rules on them will go a long way in determining the strength of the prosecution’s or defense’s cases.
Those three issues are:
n Defense requests to have most of the physical evidence thrown out because they say it was illegally collected. The prosecution disagrees.
n Whether the alleged victim gave up her right to privacy regarding her medical records by discussing her medical history outside the accepted bounds of the doctor-patient relationship.
n Whether the alleged victim’s sexual history around the time of the June 30 incident is relevant and should be admitted as part of the evidence the jury will hear.
Witnesses came and went from Courtroom 1 in the Eagle County Courthouse Tuesday. Among them were six people from the University of Northern Colorado – four women and two men – who testified during portions of the medical records hearings.
In complying with Ruckriegle’s Monday order, prosecutors turned over to defense attorneys two swatches of cloth cut from the crotch of the alleged victim’s underwear.
Defense attorneys want the swatches tested in an independent lab in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, who runs Technical Associates, said that among the tests planned is an A-P mapping test, or acid phosphatose testing, a material found in semen. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation used the same testing and found the swatches to contain Bryant’s semen.
Arguments over the swatches touched off a heated exchange Monday between Hurlbert and Haddon. Haddon said the defense had asked for them seven months ago. Ruckriegle reminded Hurlbert that the two sides had agreed to an exchange two months ago, and he had ordered it a month ago.
Ruckriegle waved aside Hurlbert’s arguments and gave him 24 hours to hand over the swatches. The swatches were handed over Tuesday.
While it sounds like the young woman is in for a hammering, she still might not be, said local Eagle County attorney Rohn Robbins.
“We may not want to take that quite at face value,” Robbins said. “Judge Ruckriegle likely will not and should not allow nonrelevant questioning about the alleged victim’s sexual history.”
Also, the initial questioning the alleged victim endures will be done in private, for only Ruckriegle to hear. Ruckriegle will weigh that information to determine what, if any, of what he hears in those private hearings will be put before a jury during a trial in open court.
“Still, this is a floodgate that’s been opened,” Robbins said.
It’s possible, and even probable, that as part of the rape shield evidence hearings, the alleged victim could be called to comment on the testimony of dozens of witnesses subpoenaed by Bryant’s defense attorneys.
“Part of the strategy is to rattle and scare her,” Robbins said. “A defense team’s job is to prevail upon the court the position it’s taking. They’re hired to zealously represent their client.”
Ruckriegle ruled that he will hear arguments about whether the state’s rape shield statute is constitutional.
A defense motion filed in the middle of December asserted that it is not and asked for the hearing. It was part of that motion that sought to exclude limits on the kinds of questions the alleged victim may face.
Robbins said the rape shield law presumes that an alleged victim’s sexual history is not admissible in court. It does not, however, ban it absolutely. If defense attorneys want it included, and Mackey and Haddon do, they have to fight for it.
Much of that arguing will be done later this month, and possibly April 26-28, when Ruckriegle and the attorneys will wrap up anything unfinished.
Almost all that argument will be done in private hearings, except that dealing with the constitutionality of the rape shield law.
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