Lawyers for Court TV and other media outlets argued Monday that they should be allowed to broadcast the rape trial of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant when it begins in September, dismissing complaints from both prosecutors and defense attorneys that a televised trial would turn into a twisted version of a reality show.
"A criminal trial was intended by the Founding Fathers to be public," Court TV attorney Richard P. Holme told Judge Terry Ruckriegle.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have not agreed on much in the pretrial wrangling, but they were united in opposition to broadcasting the trial.
"This trial involves intimate sex, violence and a national celebrity," District Attorney Mark Hurlbert told the judge. "It has all the makings of a reality TV show. All we need to turn the case of People v. Bryant into the 'Survivor' of Eagle County is to let the TV cameras in."
John Clune, representing the 20-year-old woman who says Bryant raped her at a Rocky Mountain resort near here, told the judge that she has already faced repeated death threats and would find it "terrifying" to tell her story to a national television audience. Clune said the woman considered dropping the case because of the pressure but intends to see it through.
Defense lawyer Hal Haddon said that Bryant and his lawyers had also received "physical threats" during the 13 months that the high-profile case has moved through the courts. Because the trial will deal with "detailed graphic evidence of intimate sexual conduct," Haddon said, neither Bryant nor the woman "will retain a shred of dignity or privacy if these details are televised to the world."
The Bryant case has received enormous coverage since the National Basketball Association player was charged with a felony count of sexual assault after an encounter in his hotel suite on June 30, 2003. Bryant, 25, concedes that he had sex with the woman but says it was consensual.
If convicted, he faces penalties ranging from 20 years of closely supervised probation to a prison term of four years to life. A conviction would void his new $136 million contract with the Lakers.
With a jury pool summoned to appear in late August, and testimony expected to start shortly after Labor Day, Ruckriegle spent Monday reviewing numerous procedural and evidentiary questions that must be resolved before the trial.
Ruckriegle did not say when he will decide whether TV cameras will be allowed.
Also Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the media cannot publish sealed transcripts in the Bryant case that were mistakenly sent by e-mail to seven news organizations. The court held that this prohibition amounts to "prior restraint," but said, "It is constitutional under the specific facts and context of the case."