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Bryant attorneys hit rape shield law
Updated: 2004-02-11 11:20

Kobe Bryant's defense team stepped up its attack Tuesday on a state law that makes it difficult to bring up the sexual history of alleged rape victims at trial.

Defense attorney Hal Haddon argued in a court filing that people accused of sex crimes in Colorado are deprived of their right to equal protection because two state laws set a "blatant and fundamentally unfair double standard."

One law says a defendant's sexual history is typically considered to be valuable information and should be presented to a jury. The other, the state's 30-year-old "rape shield" law, says the defense has to prove an alleged victim's sexual history is relevant in order to present it to jurors.

Bryant's attorneys have asked state District Judge Terry Ruckriegle to declare that law unconstitutional, an argument that may have to be settled by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, has declined to comment on the defense's attack on the rape-shield law, but she has said it is a fairly common tactic for defense attorneys.

Bryant, 25, has said he had consensual sex with a 19-year-old employee of a Colorado resort near Vail where he stayed last summer. The Los Angeles Lakers (news) star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation if convicted.

The defense wants to introduce evidence about the accuser's sexual history in an attempt to show that injuries discovered during a hospital exam after the alleged attack might have been caused by someone else.

In a November court filing, prosecutors said the rape-shield law has been upheld in earlier cases.

Haddon, however, said his arguments appear to be the first such challenge to the law. He said the cases prosecutors cited in their filing were decided well before 1996, when Colorado lawmakers changed the law affecting sex-crime defendants to "increase the likelihood of successful prosecution of sexual offenders."

He said prosecutors will have to prove the law is supported by a compelling state interest and achieves that purpose in the least restrictive manner possible — rather than the defense being forced to prove the law is unconstitutional.

The question of which side is required to prove its argument will probably be key to the judge's decision on whether the law is constitutional, said Dan Recht, past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.

"It really is unfair that a defendant's sexual past comes in much more readily than an accuser's sexual past, even though the defendant has a whole lot more to lose," Recht said. "But it's always a safe bet to assume a court is going to find a statute constitutional."

Ruckriegle has scheduled two hearings in March. It was unclear whether he planned to hear arguments on the rape-shield law.

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