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Toobin: Evidence will determine Bryant's fate

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin

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(CNN) -- NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was charged with felony sexual assault Friday stemming from a June 30 incident in which a 19-year-old woman said she was a victim of sexual misconduct by Bryant at a resort in Vail, Colorado. CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about the case.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, we see what his defense is going to be, it's going to be that she consented.

TOOBIN: These are often the most difficult cases to prove for the prosecution because they tend to be one person's word against another. The physical evidence, which can be so important, becomes much less important when the defense is consent, because obviously the defendant concedes that sexual relations took place. What becomes crucial, what becomes the entire focus of the case, is the issue of how does the prosecution corroborate the victim's story of whether the sex was consensual or non-consensual -- Were there injuries, did she report them immediately, was there any prior relationship between the two that would indicate some level of consent? Those are the issues that will come to the floor immediately. And they will be played out on a very much a national stage, it looks like.

BLITZER: The kind of physical evidence that this prosecutor, this district attorney needs in order to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt is what, beyond the DNA, because the DNA could suggest it would be consensual. They need more than just DNA.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. ... The one thing about a consent defense is the DNA becomes irrelevant because both sides agree that sex took place. What he is likely to need, and I truthfully don't know whether he has it, is evidence, for example, of some injury to the woman. It is far better for the prosecution if there is some sort of evidence or photograph or some indication that the sex was non-consensual. [That's] become a very big issue. Any sort of immediate statements by either party, admission by Kobe Bryant. One of the important things to remember here is that Kobe Bryant was with some other people during this period. Did he make any admissions; did he show any consciousness of guilt to them or to others in the immediate period after that? That's going to be become very important; all of the surrounding circumstances. Those will be the central disputed fact in this case.

BLITZER: How important is it that his wife has come forward and given this extraordinary statement of support for her husband?

TOOBIN: I think it's awfully helpful. It's not helpful in the sense of it probably wasn't even admissible in a court of law, but when you deal with these high-profile cases the jury pool is watching you, is watching all of the coverage of this case, and a defendant ... whose family stands by him tends to stand in much better stead than one who has been abandoned. Even though it's not a legally admissible fact, I think it's helpful.

BLITZER: One thing that's obviously going to happen, assuming this goes to trial, Jeffrey, is that this woman is going to be smeared, is going to be slammed by the defense attorneys representing Kobe Bryant. She's 19 years old, a recent high school grad, now in college. I assume the prosecution, the district attorney, has gone through and warned her what she could expect. ... What can she expect now?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, this is usually the prime legal battleground between prosecution and defense in a rape case, where the defenses consent. Colorado like most states has a rape shield law which protects victims from having their sexual history bared in public to a certain extent. But if the defense can show that there is some history of false allegations of rape or can show some sort of pattern of behavior ... than a rape shield law can be overcome. Those kind of legal arguments are often very heated and very critical in determining whether someone's convicted or not.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, the next step presumably in this case, August 6, that's when Kobe Bryant ... [is] required to appear at a court proceeding. What's going to happen at that proceeding?

TOOBIN: Well, Wolf, I don't have a great expertise in Colorado criminal procedure. What usually happens in criminal cases at this stage is the judge will start to set a schedule, a schedule for motions, and motions for change of venue. He or she will set a schedule for how the case will proceed. And ultimately, it will go to trial. We'll certainly get a better sense on August 6 of how quickly the case will proceed.

BLITZER: And based on what you're hearing right now, as far as the whole question of evidence, the evidence is going to be critical presumably in determining Kobe Bryant's fate right now. How important is the corroborating evidence, the contemporaneous evidence that there was a commotion, there may have been noise, ... she may have been crying or whatever, that's obviously going to be very important.

TOOBIN: Critical. ... In the old days there used to be a legal requirement. You could not get a rape conviction unless there was corroboration and that legal requirement is long gone. However, prosecutors always look for corroboration. Corroboration is the key to these cases. Are there bruises? Are there other witnesses? Did people hear something? How long did it take for her to complain that she was attacked? These sorts of things are always critical in a case where there are only two people in the room when the crime itself took place alleged crime.


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