Prosecution wants medical info kept private

Updated: December 20, 2003, 11:44 AM ET
Associated Press

EAGLE, Colo. -- The judge in the Kobe Bryant case is waiting for more information before he rules on key issues, including whether the medical history of the woman allegedly raped by the NBA star should be allowed as evidence.

State District Judge Terry Ruckriegle delayed action Friday after sending witnesses home and then meeting privately with attorneys for both sides.

The closed-door session concluded shortly after 6 p.m. MST, and Bryant and attorneys for both sides left the courthouse without comment. He flew back to Los Angeles, missed tipoff and entered the game in the second quarter of the Lakers' game against the Denver Nuggets.

Prosecutors and lawyers for the woman say her medical history should remain out of public view. They urged the judge to hold any arguments about the issue behind closed doors, and he agreed.

The defense wants to use the woman's medical history as proof that she had mental problems clouding her perception of what happened between her and Bryant in a Colorado hotel room last June.

Bryant, 25, has insisted they had consensual sex.

The judge set a Jan. 9 deadline for briefs on the medical history question. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 23.

"I want the opportunity to reflect on it," Ruckriegle said.

Prosecutors and Bryant's lawyers left the courthouse without comment.

Ruckriegle also denied a prosecution request for an investigation into media leaks, set deadlines for DNA evidence testing and told prosecutors to find out whether sheriff's investigators had received T-shirts that mock the NBA star.

David Lugert, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said the trial's slow pace suggested a long paper fight was coming.

"The case is going sideways," Lugert said.

Bryant, a guard for the Lakers, faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted of sexual assault. He was at the courthouse, but returned to California for a home game, where his shot at the buzzer led the Lakers to a 101-99 victory over the Nuggets.

Among those subpoenaed by the defense to appear Friday were the accuser's mother and a former friend, Lindsey McKinney, who has said the woman tried to kill herself twice this year.

In Colorado, medical records must remain sealed unless the patient consents or gives up their privacy rights. Bryant's lawyers contend the woman waived those rights because she spoke with others about her medical condition.

Specifically, the defense wants access to documents from North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, where authorities brought the woman in February after determining she was a "danger to herself." She was a college student in that city at the time.

Prosecutor Ingrid Bakke said allowing the medical details to be brought up before a national media audience would prevent other alleged sexual assault victims from coming forward.

"When the bell is re-rung, it revictimizes the victim," she said.

But Tom Kelley, an attorney representing media organizations, told the judge that a significant amount of information about the woman's medical and psychological history already has been reported.

"Unless someone gives graphic detail of what's in a medical record, I don't think it could be seriously argued" that the hearing should be closed, Kelley said.

John Clune, an attorney representing the woman, said her rights should be protected just as much as Bryant's were during a preliminary hearing in which his statement to investigators was played behind closed doors.

Any testimony on the medical issues should be kept secret unless the judge decides it can be used at trial, he said.

Sitting out the argument was Bryant's defense team. Attorney Hal Haddon said Bryant would like the entire hearing closed to the public, but he didn't weigh in on the woman's medical history.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press