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Old playbook

National

Issue: "Arafat: The devil you know," Sept. 20, 2003

Kobe Bryant attorney Roy Black may be going back to his early 1990s playbook to defend the Lakers star from rape allegations and a sexual-assault charge. Mr. Black defended William Kennedy Smith, the nephew of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, on a rape charge in Florida in 1991, in part by hiring a private investigator to look into the accuser's past, even obtaining medical records showing the accuser was promiscuous. A judge threw out the findings, but just the controversy could have been enough to tip jury sentiment against the accuser. Mr. Smith was eventually acquitted.

Now, as Mr. Bryant's attorney, Mr. Black has asked the court to release medical and psychological records for the woman accusing the Lakers guard. "When you make a criminal charge in which somebody could be sentenced to life imprisonment, you necessarily give up certain rights to privacy," Mr. Black said.

But because of Colorado laws, it will be next to impossible for a jury or defense attorney to ever see the accuser's records. But the surrounding controversy could plant seeds of doubt in the residents of Eagle, Colo., should the case go to trial. "If they can't get into attacking her credibility by saying she's crazy one way or another, then the next best thing is to make sure the entire potential jury pool knows that she's had emotional or mental difficulties," said jury consultant Howard Varinsky.

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