Michael Wilbon's Sept. 3 Sports column, "Bryant's Case Dragged on Too Long," is an affront to the criminal process and victims' rights.
While Wilbon's lawyer friend David Cornwell may have asserted that it "would be prosecutorial misconduct for [the trial] to go forward," this is hardly strong enough support to argue in your newspaper that the proceedings in this case "trample the fundamental underpinnings of our legal system." Neither Wilbon, Cornwell nor the two other attorneys cited in the column were intimately involved in the processing of this case.
It is frustrating to see sportswriters and legal experts alike beat "celebrity trials" to death without being privy to the information and evidence that leads to each day's events. It is possible in assault cases for the victim's testimony alone to be sufficient evidence not only to bring a case to trial but also to obtain a conviction. It is also possible for mountains of inculpatory evidence to be overlooked or ignored on the way to a finding of not guilty.
By going forward with the charges from the outset, the prosecution was not making the determination that Kobe Bryant committed this act. The prosecution made the determination that there was enough evidence to allow a jury to decide whether Bryant committed this act. Perhaps through interviews with the alleged victim, the prosecution made an honest determination that she was credible and consistent in her testimony. Perhaps the prosecution, in viewing all of the evidence as a whole, felt that there were reasonable grounds to take the case to trial. In any event, the prosecution did not "trample" the underpinnings of our legal system. Had this case gone forward, Bryant still would have been innocent until proven guilty. And, considering the financial firepower displayed throughout the proceedings before the charges were dismissed, it is likely that he would have secured an acquittal. In that case, he might have had to incur legal expenses and some emotional stress.
It is also possible that the alleged victim would have testified persuasively and convinced the jury that Bryant committed the offense as alleged, or even that he committed a lower-level assault. One thing is certain, though: Had this case gone to trial, American criminal procedure and society would not have been subject to the silencing effect on future victims that has resulted from the dismissal of this case -- a silencing that is only exacerbated by Monday-morning jurisprudential quarterbacking such as that displayed by Wilbon.
-- Erik G. Milito