DNA evidence forces prosecutors to drop Kobe Bryant rape case

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The Independent US

The prosecution of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant on rape charges was on the verge of collapse last night as prosecution sources told several media outlets they would ask the judge to drop the charges as early as today.

The prosecution of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant on rape charges was on the verge of collapse last night as prosecution sources told several media outlets they would ask the judge to drop the charges as early as today.

The case, which caused a sensation when it first surfaced because of the Los Angeles Laker's hitherto squeaky-clean image, has been in trouble for months because of conflicting evidence surrounding last year's encounter between Mr Bryant and a young receptionist at a hotel in the Colorado Rockies.

The accuser alleged she had medical evidence to show that Mr Bryant had forced himself on her in his room - contradicting the star's assertion that their encounter had been consensual. However, a DNA test traced hair and semen found in her underwear to someone other than Mr Bryant, indicating she had had more than one sexual partner around the time of the alleged assault.

The prosecution fought doggedly to keep that evidence out of the courtroom, arguing that the alleged victim's sexual habits and history were her own private business and that airing them in public would merely compound her trauma. Judge Terry Ruckriegle, however, ruled in July that the usual "rape shield" provisions did not apply in this case because any sexual encounters in the period immediately preceding or following the alleged attack were too pertinent to ignore. The Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear a prosecution appeal on the rape shield question.

Until yesterday, it appeared the case in the town of Eagle, Colorado would go ahead regardless. Jury selection began last Friday, and lawyers on both sides predicted that the trial proper would get under way early next week.

The prosecution has been dogged by new problems, however. Potential jurors were asked in a questionnaire whether they thought Mr Bryant was guilty or innocent. So many of them answered either "definitely not guilty" or "probably not guilty" that the prosecution made a special plea to the judge to throw out everyone in those two categories. It is not clear what the judge told the prosecutors in response.

A filing by the defence, meanwhile, alleged that a forensics expert consulted by the prosecution had information that "undermined the accuser's allegations and the prosecution's case, and corroborated Mr Bryant's defence on a central issue - the cause and significance of the accuser's alleged injuries".

The filing said defence lawyers had only found out the extent of the witness's opinions after they spoke to him last Friday.

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