Court Releases Details

Times Staff Writer

Transcripts released Monday from a closed hearing in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case provided a preview of graphic and potentially explosive testimony expected at the Laker star’s trial, which begins this month.

A DNA expert spelled out in meticulous detail evidence that bolsters a defense contention that Bryant’s accuser had sex with someone else soon after the alleged rape June 30, 2003, at a Colorado mountain resort.

Also, prosecutor Ingrid Bakke told the judge that if all the evidence of the accuser’s sexual history were ruled admissible, “I’m thinking the prosecution is going to sit down and reevaluate the quality of its case and its chances of a successful prosecution.”


The transcripts of closed hearings held June 21 and 22 in Eagle County Court were mistakenly e-mailed June 24 to seven organizations, including The Times. They were released in edited form after the prosecution and defense came to agreement on the portions that should be left out. Only the accuser’s name and a handful of passages were redacted from the 94 pages released Monday. Another 15 pages were released last week.

“It is with great reluctance that this court releases these transcripts,” Judge Terry Ruckriegle said. “The effect of this release is to present narrowly limited, one-side evidence and argument to the public prior to the selection of a jury and without reference to the totality of the evidence.”

Since the hearing, Ruckriegle has ruled that evidence of the accuser’s sexual conduct in the 72 hours preceding her medical examination the day after the alleged rape will be admissible at trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 27. Prosecutors say they have no intention of dropping the case.

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he and his accuser had consensual sex. If convicted, Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation and a fine of up to $750,000.

The Times has already reported much of what was discussed at the hearings based on information gathered from open hearings, written pleadings and sources close to the defense and prosecution.

The transcripts were made public at the direction of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer in response to a petition by the news organizations. The Colorado Supreme Court backed an order by Ruckriegle that threatened with contempt anyone who published the contents.


Bryant attorney Hal Haddon questioned defense DNA expert Elizabeth Johnson at length, establishing through her testimony that sperm and semen from a man other than Bryant -- referred to as “Mr. X” in the transcript -- was found on swabs taken from the accuser’s vagina, inner thigh and other parts of her body at a medical examination about 15 hours after the alleged rape.

The defense believes Mr. X is either the accuser’s former boyfriend, Matt Herr, or hotel bellman Bobby Pietrack. Ruckriegle already has ruled that evidence about the accuser’s sexual relationship with those men is admissible.

In addition to the swabs, DNA from Mr. X was also found on two pair of her underwear -- a purple pair she wore the day of the alleged rape and a yellow pair she wore to the medical exam. According to the transcripts, the prosecution explanation for the presence of Mr. X’s DNA is that it transferred from the yellow underwear to the accuser’s body. Prosecutors say the underwear had not been laundered when she put it on the morning of July 1 before going to the medical exam.

Johnson said it was unlikely that sperm would remain in the woman’s vaginal tract for more than five or six days.

Furthermore, Johnson testified that DNA from Mr. X transferring from the yellow underwear does not explain why it was also found on the purple underwear.

The presence of blood on the yellow underwear is crucial, Johnson said, because no blood was found on the swabs taken from the accuser. Johnson said that had sperm and semen transferred from the underwear, “the blood would have also transferred to her thigh.”

No DNA from Mr. X was found on the T-shirt Bryant wore during the alleged rape or on swabs taken from him at a medical exam, which Johnson said supports the defense contention that the accuser had sex with Mr. X after the encounter with the Laker star.

“We’re talking about a snapshot of forensic evidence at the time this event, alleged assault, happened in the hotel room,” Johnson said.

“It’s just extremely far-fetched and unlikely that transfer from the yellow panties could account for all of these findings.”

Renowned forensics expert Henry Lee sat in on the hearing on behalf of the prosecution, but did not testify. Neither did Yvonne Woods, a DNA expert from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation who was present to counter Lee’s testimony had he taken the stand.

Woods is expected to testify for the defense even though she was endorsed as a prosecution expert. Haddon said Woods will testify that “transfer of DNA to all of the places on [the accuser’s] body where it is found is highly unlikely.”

Prosecutors conferred with Lee during a 10-minute recess before Eagle County Dist. Atty. Mark Hurlbert cross-examined Johnson.

Hurlbert, who has since said he will not take part in the trial, elicited testimony from Johnson that only a few sperm from Mr. X were detected on the vaginal and cervical swabs and that more sperm likely would have been detected had there been ejaculation in the hours before the exam.

In a court filing, Ruckriegle acknowledged that he released the transcripts under pressure from the Supreme Court, saying that it could “compromise the rights of some of the participants” in the case.

John Clune, an attorney for the accuser, has been critical of recent mistakes by the court, including the one that resulted in the transcripts being e-mailed to the news organizations. Clune also has been critical of Ruckriegle, characterizing an apology made by the judge at an open hearing Friday as “self-serving and insulting.”

Ruckriegle said the redactions included information pertaining to the accuser’s mental health history and use of prescription medication, drugs and alcohol because he has not yet ruled on whether the evidence is admissible. Also redacted was any reference to the woman’s sexual conduct outside the 72-hour window that will be admitted at trial.