Survey might help defense try to move case

EAGLE, Colo. -- A polling firm has begun interviewing
residents about the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, research that
legal experts say could be used by the defense to ask a judge to
move the trial to another city.

Eagle County Sheriff Joseph Hoy, whose office investigated the
case in June and July, was among those interviewed recently, his
spokeswoman said.

Paul Talmey of Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy Inc. in Boulder
said Monday his firm was conducting a survey in Eagle County. He
declined to say who he was working for or whether the activity was
connected to the Bryant case.

Krista Flannigan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said
prosecutors were not conducting such a survey. Attorneys for Bryant
did not return a call for comment.

The questions Hoy was asked were similar to questions attorneys
ask potential jurors during jury selection, sheriff's spokesman Kim
Andree said.

Among other things, the sheriff was asked how long he has lived
in Eagle County -- and whether he had been following the Bryant
story in the media. Hoy answered the questions, Andree said.

Bryant, 24, is charged with a single felony count of sexual
assault. He is accused of raping a 19-year-old worker at the
Edwards resort hotel where he stayed June 30. Bryant has said the
two had consensual sex.

Bryant is due to return to Colorado for a preliminary hearing
Oct. 9, where an Eagle County judge will determine whether there is
enough evidence to order a trial in state district court.

Legal experts said defense attorneys often commission such
surveys to help determine whether to ask a judge to move a
high-profile case.

"I would be doing a telephone poll to find out who's prejudiced
in the community, whether they'd made up their minds due to
publicity,'' said Walter Gerash, a criminal defense attorney in
Denver. "If they did, I'd make a motion to change venue, and if
they didn't, I'd keep a record for appeal.''

Howard Varinsky, an attorney and trial consultant in Oakland,
Calif., said such surveys can help defense attorneys during jury
selection as they try to find people who will vote for acquittal.

"They're going to call people in the venue up and ask their
opinions on the case. They're going to analyze that and see what
kind of people are for and against,'' Varinsky said.

Talmey's firm has conducted surveys of potential jurors before.
In one case, former Qwest Communications executive Bryan Treadway
hired Talmey-Drake to find out whether potential jurors believe he
is guilty of accounting fraud.

Attorneys for Treadway cited the survey results in a recent
court request asking that the case be moved out of Colorado.