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Prosecutors claim filings could impact jury pool

DENVER -- Sealing court filings in the Kobe Bryant sexual
assault case could hurt public confidence in the judicial system,
attorneys for media organizations argued Tuesday.

In a court filing, attorneys for media including The Associated
Press said they oppose the prosecution's bid to have
evidence-related motions barred from public view. Prosecutors this
month said details in such requests could influence the jury pool
and threaten the NBA star's right to a fair trial.

A judge should seal court documents only if there is a proven,
substantial risk that disclosure would threaten that right -- and
only if there is no other way, media attorney Steven Zansberg
wrote.

Bryant faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on
probation if convicted of sexually assaulting a worker at a
Colorado resort where he stayed June 30.

The Los Angeles Lakers' guard has said the two had consensual
sex. No trial date has been set.

Under the First Amendment, court documents are supposed to be
open to the public unless there is proof they must be sealed. Such
proof must be given for each document, Zansberg wrote.

He also said if Judge Terry Ruckriegle issued the order
prosecutors are seeking, "it could result in the parties erring on
the side of caution by filing all future pleadings under seal."

As an alternative, Zansberg said, the judge could have certain
motions filed under seal until he determines whether they could be
opened to public review.

"What's going on here is the traditional tug-of-war where the
media, acting as the surrogate of the public, is saying `Wait a
minute, you've got to justify why you're doing this because of the
presumption that court records are open to the public,"' said Jane
Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of
Minnesota.

Ruckriegle has scheduled hearings Dec. 19 and Jan. 23 to discuss
requests by both sides, and he could make decisions then about the
evidence.