The judge presiding over Kobe Bryant's sexual assault trial ruled Thursday that Colorado's rape shield law does not violate Bryant's constitutional rights as a criminal defendant. The ruling will make it more difficult for the basketball player's lawyers to bring up during his trial the sexual conduct of the woman who has accused him of rape.
State Judge Terry Ruckriegle's decision to uphold the rape shield law was not a surprise. Every state has legislation on the books declaring that an alleged rape victim's sexual history is presumptively irrelevant and cannot be raised at trial. Supreme courts in Colorado and other states have upheld the laws.
Defendants frequently assert, as attorneys for the Los Angeles Lakers star did, that shield laws conflict with a defendant's constitutional right to confront witnesses. Those challenges have not succeeded.
Bryant, 25, could face life in prison or years of closely supervised probation if convicted on the felony count of forcible sexual assault brought against him. After initial denials, Bryant admitted having sex with a 19-year-old hotel clerk at a Colorado mountain resort last summer. He says the sex was consensual.
In pretrial hearings, Bryant's lawyers have made it clear that his chief line of defense will be an aggressive attack on the credibility and morality of the woman. The rape shield law will give prosecutors an effective way to object when defense lawyers try to introduce evidence about the woman's character.
-- T.R. Reid