Media coverage sharply limited

DENVER -- The judge in the Kobe Bryant rape case sharply
limited how the media will cover the upcoming trial through TV and
still cameras Tuesday, saying he was worried too much exposure
threatens the possibility of a fair hearing.

District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said no cameras at all will be
allowed during witness testimony or jury selection. Still
photography will be allowed during opening and closing statements;
video and audio coverage will be allowed only during closing

Attorneys for news organizations including The Associated Press
had asked to be allowed to photograph and videotape the entire
trial. Attorneys for the accuser joined prosecutors and
defense attorneys in opposing the request.

Bryant, 26, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault,
saying he had consensual sex with an employee of the Vail-area
resort where he stayed last summer. If convicted, he faces four
years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a
fine up to $750,000. Jury selection begins Friday.

Ruckriegle's ruling struck a fair balance between the need to
ensure a fair trial and the First Amendment rights of the media,
said Bob Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern University School of

"I think that from the O.J. (Simpson) media debacle, judges
have become very averse to allowing real-time television coverage
of proceedings including the trial in their courtrooms," Pugsley
said. "I think this is a healthy reaction on their part in the
interests of securing the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a
fair trial and the empanelment of an impartial jury."

Ruckriegle prohibited any photography of members of the jury and
any audio coverage or close-up photography of conferences at the
bench or of communications between attorneys and their client or
among attorneys.

An attorney for the news organizations did not immediately
return a call.

The judge said he was concerned about the potential for witness
intimidation and anxiety stemming from physical threats made
against the accuser, prosecutors and others involved in the

"The increased anxiety and apprehension of witnesses that flow
from the public display of an image or live testimony reduces the
court's ability to maintain a fair trial in this matter and
exacerbates what is admittedly a problematic situation in a public
courtroom," he said. "Accordingly, the court concludes there is a
reasonable likelihood that (expanded media coverage) of the witness
testimony would compromise the fair trial rights of the

Ruckriegle said attorneys in the case have shown "no propensity
for showboating or grandstanding," but concluded there was a
likelihood that cameras would affect witnesses, some of whom
displayed reluctance and discomfort during pretrial hearings.

"Substantial portions of the testimony may no doubt be
embarrassing and humiliating for some of the participants and will
likely exact some measure of intense psychological stress, if not a
physical distress," Ruckriegle said.

Earlier this year, the judge handling the Scott Peterson trial
in California banned cameras from his courtroom over objections
from the media. Peterson is charged with killing his wife, Laci,
and the couple's unborn son.