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An Open Bryant Hearing Is Sought

September 20, 2003|Steve Henson

DENVER — A large media group is opposing a defense motion to close Kobe Bryant's preliminary hearing by citing precedent and suggesting that a judge could still protect the identity of the Laker guard's accuser should she testify.

The response filed Friday said that a preliminary hearing "enjoys a long and unbroken tradition of being open to the public," and it pointed out that every such proceeding has been open since the Colorado Supreme Court outlined its position on the issue in 1979.

The media group, which includes The Times, also wrote: "The defendant has not met, and cannot meet, his burden to warrant such a drastic and unprecedented action by this court."

Bryant, 25, is accused of sexual assault and faces four years to life in prison. Judge Frederick Gannett will determine at the Oct. 9 preliminary hearing whether there is enough evidence for a trial.

Bryant's attorneys are trying to force his 19-year-old accuser to testify at the preliminary hearing, a possibility the media group addressed: "If the court is persuaded that a portion of the accuser's testimony should not be conducted in open court, the court can issue a limited closure order."

Such an order could include placing a screen in front of her to protect her identity or clearing the courtroom during her testimony, said Chris Beall, an attorney for the media group.

Mark Hurlbert, the district attorney prosecuting Bryant, will file a motion Monday on whether he wants the preliminary hearing closed. Judge Gannett probably will make a decision by a Sept. 29 status conference.

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