Firm polling Eagle County residents about Bryant case

Updated: August 18, 2003, 8:33 PM ET

EAGLE, Colo. -- A polling firm has begun interviewing residents about the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, research that legal experts say could be used by the defense to ask a judge to move the trial to another city.

Eagle County Sheriff Joseph Hoy, whose office investigated the case in June and July, was among those interviewed recently, his spokeswoman said.

Paul Talmey of Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy Inc. in Boulder said Monday his firm was conducting a survey in Eagle County. He declined to say who he was working for or whether the activity was connected to the Bryant case.

Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said prosecutors were not conducting such a survey. Attorneys for Bryant did not return a call for comment.

The questions Hoy was asked were similar to questions attorneys ask potential jurors during jury selection, sheriff's spokesman Kim Andree said.

Among other things, the sheriff was asked how long he has lived in Eagle County -- and whether he had been following the Bryant story in the media. Hoy answered the questions, Andree said.

Bryant, 24, is charged with a single felony count of sexual assault. He is accused of raping a 19-year-old worker at the Edwards resort hotel where he stayed June 30. Bryant has said the two had consensual sex.

Bryant is due to return to Colorado for a preliminary hearing Oct. 9, where an Eagle County judge will determine whether there is enough evidence to order a trial in state district court.

Legal experts said defense attorneys often commission such surveys to help determine whether to ask a judge to move a high-profile case.

"I would be doing a telephone poll to find out who's prejudiced in the community, whether they'd made up their minds due to publicity," said Walter Gerash, a criminal defense attorney in Denver. "If they did, I'd make a motion to change venue, and if they didn't, I'd keep a record for appeal."

Howard Varinsky, an attorney and trial consultant in Oakland, Calif., said such surveys can help defense attorneys during jury selection as they try to find people who will vote for acquittal.

"They're going to call people in the venue up and ask their opinions on the case. They're going to analyze that and see what kind of people are for and against," Varinsky said.

Talmey's firm has conducted surveys of potential jurors before. In one case, former Qwest Communications executive Bryan Treadway hired Talmey-Drake to find out whether potential jurors believe he is guilty of accounting fraud.

Attorneys for Treadway cited the survey results in a recent court request asking that the case be moved out of Colorado.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index