DENVER -- Prosecutors have abandoned their bid to retest DNA evidence in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, accusing the NBA star's defense team of wasting so much time that additional testing would delay the trial.
The testing has been the subject of sharp exchanges between
prosecutors and the defense. At the defense's request, the judge
ordered prosecutors to explain why they didn't follow his order to
allow a defense expert to attend the tests.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has said the evidence was tested
by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and by an independent
laboratory hired by the defense, with different results.
Prosecutors planned more testing to try to reproduce the defense
lab's results, but have now dropped that plan.
Details of what is to be tested have not been publicly
disclosed, but Hurlbert said in a court filing made public Friday that
the results would be irrelevant. The defense has argued that the woman
accusing Bryant of rape had sex with multiple partners in the days
surrounding her encounter with the Los Angeles Lakers star,
apparently hoping to undermine her credibility.
Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He
has said he had consensual sex with a 19-year-old employee of a
Vail-area hotel where he stayed last summer. The accuser turned 20 Friday.
If convicted, he faces mandatory prison time of four years to
life, 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000.
Testing of the evidence had been scheduled to begin at a
Virginia lab this month, but was halted when state District Judge
Terry Ruckriegle ordered prosecutors to explain why a defense
expert could not observe the tests.
Prosecutors said the lab has policies against outsiders
observing tests. They also have said they believed Ruckriegle had
suggested, not ordered, the presence of a defense expert.
Hurlbert said if the judge had decided to allow testing without
a defense expert present, the process would be finished by
July 2, with results available within about two weeks, nearly a
month after originally planned.
"The people still have hope of an August trial date," Hurlbert
said. "Given that there will be at least a three-week postponement
on test results that are not relevant in the first place, the
people feel that retesting at this time only serves to
unnecessarily delay matters further."
It is possible that prosecutors decided to give up on retesting
to avoid getting "skewered" by Ruckriegle during the next
pretrial hearing, which begins Monday, said Scott Robinson, a
Denver defense attorney who is following the case.
Prosecutors could argue they didn't understand the order or that
there was miscommunication between them and the laboratory, he
"Neither alternative is really attractive, but the third
alternative -- that we selected this lab knowing you had ordered us
to permit a defense expert to be present -- was pretty close to
suicidal," Robinson said. "They had to do something and this
certainly resolves the issue from the prosecution's perspective."