Kobe Ruling: Statements Come In

The Judge in the Kobe Bryant case has ruled on the defense motion to suppress his statements and the clothing he turned over to the detectives in his hotel room. Motion denied. Why? In a nutshell, and we just finished reading the very long ruling which is not yet available online because of a court website malfunction, here's why. The Judge found:

1. Kobe was not in custody and a reasonable person in his situation would have felt free to leave.

2. He consented to talking to the police officers and allowing them to accompany him to his room and he voluntarily turned over the clothing they were seeking.

3. There was no need to rule on whether the search warrant was valid or not because the cops said they never executed it. The prosecution relied solely on consent, and the Judge sided with them.

4. As to credibility issues, there were some differences between what Kobe's bodyguards said happened and what the detectives said happened with respect to how the questioning came about, and the Judge sided with the detectives.

Bottom line: The judge said the law is that cops don't have to tell you have a right to refuse to consent to a search or refuse to answer questions if you are not in custody. The citizen approached is expected to know this. Of course, even the Judge acknowledges, most people don't. Doesn't matter. So, as we've told the TL kid since he was in junior high, if a cop ever asks you to waive your rights or for permission to search your car or your belongings, first you ask, "Am I free to leave?," and when the officer says, "yes", then you say, "I'm sorry officer, I only waive the flag" and you hightail it out of there. We really hammered it into the kid, so much so that the advice ended up in his college admission essay.

Back to Kobe....what's the ruling mean? Not much. It's pretty clear there is no confession or admission of sexual assault on the tape.The Judge described Kobe's statements as his explanations of what happened. ["They allowed him to explain why he believed the act to be consensual".] It doesn't make a conviction any more likely today than it was yesterday. What it does do is allow the jury to hear a version of what Kobe said happened, which they will then compare to the accuser's testimony, and then they will decide who to believe.

The Judge did find the cops violated Kobe's rights by taking him to the rape exam because their order for non-testimonial identification (not the same thing as a search warrant) did not allow for night-time execution. The Judge believed Kobe over the cops as to whether he consented to the exam and found Kobe did not consent. The Judge also found that at the moment they said to Kobe "we have an order to make you take the rape exam", he was effectively in custody and a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave-- so no evidence or statements from Kobe or his person will be allowed after that moment when the cop announced he had the order.

Other notes: Much of the tape is inaudible and there are 11 gaps. The defense will have the opportunity to move to exclude individual statements of Kobe as being irrelevant to the charges or because their prejudice to Kobe outweighs the probative value.

Yes, the t-shirt with a spot of the accuser's blood will come in--but that doesn't mean she was sexually assaulted. There can be no injuries or bleeding with a rape and there can be bleeding and trauma with consensual sex. A few spots of blood doesn't tell you anything, one way or the other.

The turning decision in the case will be on the admission of the accuser's alleged contemporaneous sexual activity and her alleged mental condition and alleged self-destructive behavior. It will probably come down this week.

The Judge extended the plea bargaining deadline to July 20. We don't think today's ruling would cause either side to seek a plea bargain. If the Judge allows the accuser's history in, we won't be surprised if the prosecution tries to dispose of the case for a song.

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