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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Bryant's Accuser Testifies: The woman accusing Kobe Bryant of sexual assault testified in a closed hearing yesterday, responding to questions about her sexual practices before and after the alleged incident. The judge in the case will decide, based on yesterday's proceedings, whether the woman will have to face similar questions in front of a jury in the case. Colorado's rape shield laws protect victims from having to answer such questions, as the responses may unfairly prejudice a jury or discourage rape victims from bringing claims. However, if the judge deems the testimony vital to ensure a fair trial for the defendant, the law provides for an exception. The prosecution's effort to prevent Wednesday's hearing based on the law was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court.

A number of legal scholars have decried the judge's decision, describing it as a "huge setback for survivors and victims to come." However, the court has taken a number of steps to protect the victim's identity, including completely closing the courtroom for her testimony. It is unfortunate that her name and picture have been splashed across the Internet and the tabloids, but the onus for that falls on the media, not on the court. No matter the notoriety of the defendant and the consequences stemming from this, the judge has a duty to ensure that he has the opportunity to put on a full and complete defense, because he remains "innocent until proven guilty."

Update: Amanda Paulson asks: Is the rape-shield law working?


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