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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Judge in Kobe Bryant Case Will Release Some Sealed Court Documents

Aired August 21, 2003 - 20:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. A judge in Colorado says he will release some sealed court documents in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case. The documents include the arrest warrant that spells out details of the allegations against the NBA star. The prosecution and the defense want to keep the material sealed. They will have 10 days to appeal the ruling.
I'm joined now by former prosecutor Wendy Murphy. She joins us from Watertown, Massachusetts. Welcome back.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Hey, Paula. Nice to be here.

ZAHN: So I want you to try to step into the mind of the judge here. What was behind his desire to unseal some of these documents?

MURPHY: You know, it's an interesting question, and I'm very eager to read the ruling to see the details of it. But it looks to me like the arrest warrant itself probably doesn't contain a great deal of detail. In other words, because to get a warrant, you only have to show probable cause -- which isn't a lot of proof, it's not nearly as strong as proof beyond a reasonable doubt -- it's likely the police didn't put a lot of details in there. It probably mostly contains the statement of the victim and perhaps some of the witnesses that we've heard might have overheard some of the noise or the person she reported it to at the front desk afterwards. And that's not a great deal of information.

This is a quintessential public event, so the judge feels a great deal of pressure under the law to release something. And this is a public matter, happening in a public courtroom. The media absolutely has a right to be here. There are 1st Amendment principles here. So he has to turn over something. And I think very little could amount to too much prejudicial information to release the arrest warrant because we already know so much about the case, in terms of the basics.

But Paula, what we also know from today's decision is that the judge did not release the details of the search warrant or the affidavit in support of the search warrant. And I think one of the interesting questions is, What was that a warrant to search? And I suspect it probably was a warrant to search Kobe Bryant's body for DNA evidence -- the hair, blood and saliva that we know he provided to the hospital the next day. And I think it really raises an interesting question because what could be in there that the judge would think was too prejudicial to turn over? Because that's the stuff the judge said would not be released to the public because it would undermine Kobe Bryant's fair trial rights.

And we have to speculate a little bit. But among other things, I want to know whether that affidavit suggests that Kobe Bryant didn't voluntarily give over his DNA and his blood and his hair samples, which forced -- frankly, forced the police and the district attorney to go to a judge and get a warrant. And it really was in the face of that warrant that Kobe Bryant went to the hospital and gave those samples. And you know, if we heard that in this case, if we heard that Kobe Bryant really didn't voluntarily submit, I do think that could undermine his fair trial rights because it makes him look more guilty.

ZAHN: Well, you raise a lot of innate (ph) questions, and I've got one for you because I'm trying to understand where you're coming at on this, in terms of the judge's decision. I understand what you're saying about his not wanting to release prejudicial information. So are you basically, based on what we know so far, that you think he did the right thing?

MURPHY: Well, I mean, I'm speculating and I'm reading the tea leaves, of course. But it looks like the right thing, insofar as the judge is concerned about Kobe Bryant's fair trial rights and it doesn't seem to the judge, anyway, that releasing the basic information in the arrest warrant would do anything to undermine his fair trial rights probably in part because we know so much already about the case, and what we're going to see in that arrest warrant information is probably mostly the information we already know thus far from leaks and public statements, and so on.

What's in the details of the search warrant affidavit, though, must be a great deal of pretty powerful evidence. I mean, when a judge says, Despite the 1st Amendment despite the public's right to know, I'm not letting this other public document be released, you have to believe that there's something in there that this judge thinks would really put a big thumb on the scale against Kobe Bryant and in favor of his guilt.

ZAHN: Well, thank you for helping us try to understand what actually took place today. Always appreciate your insights, Wendy, and look forward to having you back in the future.

MURPHY: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And I should probably button this off by saying that the judge did give both sides 10 days to appeal this ruling.

All right, move over, Barbara Starr. You know our own Barbara Starr, distinguished reporter at the Pentagon. There is a new girl in town. Coming up: How a 9-year-old girl was able to get the scoop from the secretary of defense. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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