Cameras allowed in Kobe Bryant’s preliminary hearing
- A judge will allow cameras into NBA star Kobe Bryant’s preliminary hearing but has issued a gag order on participants in the trial, while requests to unseal information in the case are still pending.
July 29, 2003 — An Eagle County, Colo., judge on Friday agreed to allow one video and one still camera into the courtroom during NBA star Kobe Bryant’s preliminary hearing on accusations he sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman.
Judge Frederick Gannett placed no restrictions on what the cameras could record and also authorized a live video feed from the courtroom.
Gannett had issued a limited gag order on July 24 on lawyers, witnesses, and other participants involved in the trial. It does not completely prohibit communications with the press; according to Reuters, lawyers can discuss information unlikely to affect trial proceedings, such as matters already on the public record. Lawyers can also request help in obtaining evidence.
Reuters reported that the judge suggested that lawyers avoid discussing any material concerning “character, credibility, reputation or criminal record” of a party or witness. Additionally, test results, speculations on Bryant’s guilt or innocence, information about evidence, and statements made by Bryant himself were also deemed prejudicial
Bryant’s preliminary hearing is set to begin Aug. 6. The Los Angeles Lakers guard is charged with one count of sexual assault after a woman claimed Bryant assaulted her June 30 at a mountain lodge where she worked and where Bryant was staying while recovering from knee surgery. Bryant has acknowledged having sex with his accuser but claims that it was consensual.
The judge also is scheduled to hear arguments on Thursday to unseal court documents assembled by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department. The Los Angeles Times and other media have asked the court to unseal the documents. District Attorney Mark Hulbert is opposed to unsealing the information and requested that his brief in opposition to the media’s request also be sealed.
Another jurist, Eagle County Judge Richard Hart, is expected to rule soon on an open records request from the Vail Daily for the release of dispatch records concerning the home of Bryant’s accuser. Police were called to her home earlier this year. The Vail newspaper has sued the towns of Eagle and Vail for improperly withholding the information.
News organizations also await on order on media decorum, or rules for the media during the hearing, including whether cameras will be allowed in the hallway outside the courtroom and at the courthouse entrance.
Meanwhile, the Eagle County District Attorney’s office locked its doors on Friday and Monday, in part to keep reporters from disrupting staff, the Vail News reported. Office spokeswoman Krista Flannigan told the newspaper the office locked its doors for security reasons and so that the staff could get their work done.
(Colorado Mountain News Media Co. v. Gary Ward; Media attorney, Rohn K. Robbins; Colorado v. Bryant) — KH
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press