And so begins another of our periodic lessons in jurisprudence. Kobe Bryant spent Thursday afternoon in court in Eagle, Colo., and once again that guy on the next bar stool, who can't seem to keep his parking ticket situation straight, is an expert on criminal defense strategy.
"The only reason the defense would choose to go ahead with a preliminary hearing when it doesn't have to," that guy is saying, "is it believes -- given the minimal amount of evidence the prosecution is going to be putting on -- it may gain more by cross-examining those witnesses."
Actually, that's not the guy on the next bar stool, it's Stan Goldman, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, talking to the Associated Press. But the guy on the next bar stool has to get his ideas somewhere.
The civics lesson this time comes courtesy of Bryant, a Lakers superstar and the latest celebrity accused of a major crime and headed for a sensational trial. Bryant is accused of raping an employee of a resort hotel where he was staying while in Colorado to undergo offseason knee surgery in June. He faces life in prison if convicted.
His defense team surprised the barflies Thursday by going ahead with the preliminary hearing rather than waiving it as expected. Why'd they do that?
The guy on the next stool over stops flirting with the bartender long enough to say, "They just wanted to start today saying, 'We're not passively going to let this evidence just go in to the judge. We're going to aggressively begin his defense starting today.' They know this is a national case, an international case, and they're making a statement that 'we're going to start fighting right now.'"
OK, really that's Roger Cossack, who isn't just a lawyer, he plays one on TV, these days for ESPN.
And it's not just the field of jurisprudence that's benefited from a sudden influx of experts. Criminology has also been blessed. Here's an e-mail from a friend who says her co-worker is outraged over the Bryant case, sure that the charges are trumped up.
This co-worker couldn't be a basketball fan. I'm guessing he forms an opinion on each of the 90,000 or so rape accusations every year in this country, that that opinion is based on the facts, and that his belief in Bryant's innocence was reached after considering information known only to him, Bryant and Bryant's accuser. He only mentioned his opinion about Kobe because the subject came up. If my friend had mentioned Titus Hayden, an Indianapolis 18-year-old accused of raping his 15-year-old girlfriend, her co-worker would have had an opinion about Hayden's guilt or innocence too. I'm sure of it.
Shortly after the hearing, closed to cameras but open to the public and media, began, the accuser's story came out via the testimony of the sheriff's detective who interviewed her. Detective Doug Winters described in graphic detail her account of a flirtatious encounter with Bryant that turned violent, Bryant grabbing her by the neck, bending her over a chair and penetrating her despite her protests, then saying, "You're not going to tell anyone, right?"
I have to admit I thought there would be more of a media frenzy Thursday than there was. I expected wall-to-wall coverage of, well, the walls, and the hallway, and anything else the cable networks could think to train their cameras on while various lawyers, psychologists and friends of friends of the major players' cousins yammered on.
I figured we were off to the races when I watched Fox News, which had two members of Congress talking about the situation in Iraq, interrupt one of them midsentence to show live footage of Bryant walking from an SUV into the courthouse.
But as the afternoon and the hearing wore on, the networks went about their business. ESPN talked about the baseball playoffs and the Miami-Florida State game. CNN and Fox News talked about Iraq and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Court TV had an old episode of "Profiler" on while Bryant was still in the courtroom. I saw no sign of O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, who's on hand working for "Entertainment Tonight."
Court was adjourned after six hours. Judge Frederick Gannett said the hearing would continue Wednesday. The length of the proceeding, which was expected to be brief, might be an indication that the trial is going to be a long one. That means you'll have plenty of time over the next year or so to become an expert on Colorado's rape laws. All you have to do is buy that guy on the next stool a drink and listen.
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Week 6: Don't punt to Dante Hall! [PERMALINK]
Predicted winners in all caps.
TAMPA BAY (2-2) at Washington (3-2): One more flukey loss for the Bucs and those losses are going to start looking not so flukey.
Carolina (4-0) at INDIANAPOLIS (5-0): This is either the game of the week, matching two undefeateds, or the game in which the Panthers, in the bottom third of the league in both offense and defense, get exposed. Get ready with that robe, Panthers fans.
N.Y. Giants (2-2) at NEW ENGLAND (3-2) I'm going to be the only sportswriter in America who doesn't mention that this is the other New York-Boston matchup of the weekend. Oh, damn.
Houston (2-2) at TENNESSEE (3-2): I'm starting to think the Titans aren't all that good, but I think they're good enough to win this one.
Kansas City (5-0) at GREEN BAY (3-2): Dear Packers, do not kick the ball to that little guy on the other team named Dante Hall. He is one small man, and you have a big, wide field to deal with. Don't kick it to that one small place where he's standing. If the Broncos had figured this out last week, they might still be undefeated. He's No. 82. Watch for him, and kick it somewhere else. The Chiefs are due to trip up like the Seahawks did last week. You could benefit, especially if you just don't kick the ball anywhere near ... well, you get it.
Oakland (2-3) at CLEVELAND (2-3): I'm ready to jump off the "Cleveland Is Lousy" bus. Does the "Oakland Is Lousy" bus go by this stop?
PHILADELPHIA (2-2) at Dallas (3-1): Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said this week that he was telling his players what they've been doing right, but didn't want to tell anybody else. "I don't want anybody to think we're doing great," he said. "We're not." I'm with Bill. They're not.
MIAMI (3-1) at Jacksonville (1-4): Last week I picked the Dolphins to win but accidentally capitalized the name of their opponent. So just to be clear: I think the Dolphins are going to win this game. Thank you.
Chicago (1-3) at NEW ORLEANS (1-4): I've decided to stop waiting for the Saints to get it together, but it's pretty hard to picture the Bears winning two in a row. It's hard to picture the Bears winning one in a row, but I guess I wasn't dreaming last week when my What the Heck Pick came through for the first time in the history of the world.
Pittsburgh (2-3) at DENVER (4-1): Ordinarily my trick knee would tell me that the Steelers' slump is due to end, but my other trick knee is telling me that the Broncos are going to be tough after their heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs last week, when they inexplicably put the balls in the hands of Dante Hall. Have I mentioned you shouldn't kick to him? Fortunately, I have a third knee, and it says: Sorry, Pittsburgh.
Buffalo (3-2) at N.Y. JETS (0-4): What the Heck Pick of the week.
BALTIMORE (2-2) at Arizona (1-4): The Cardinals will be without the injured Emmitt Smith, which actually gives them a better chance to win. Just not better enough. It's not inconceivable for the Ravens to be leading the AFC North by a game and a half by Sunday night.
San Francisco (2-3) at SEATTLE (3-1): The 49ers can get right back in the NFC West race if Dennis Erickson can get a win against his former team. I don't see it.
Atlanta (1-4) at ST. LOUIS (2-2): Great Monday night matchup! Mike Vick! Kurt Warner! Marshall Faulk! Oh ... wait a minute.
Season record: 41-33
Last week: 9-5
What the Heck Picks: 1-4
Trick knees: 3
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