Oh where, oh where to turn during these languid days of summer. The players in the Robert Blake, Scott Peterson, and Martha Stewart dramas, all the people who held us rapt through the cooler months, have faded from our awareness as they have from the front pages, shuffling as they are through all those seemingly interminable pre-trial delays. The pennant races have yet to heat up, the networks are in reruns, and God only knows when The Sopranos will return. There’s scarcely reason even to look for the remote.
But suddenly, live, from Eagle, Colorado, it’s The Kobe Bryant Show.
And what a ratings bonanza it will be, with its titillating elements of celebrity, illicit sex, and, even more alluring, the euphoric prospect of seeing the high and mighty brought low and desperate. Oh, how the fans love Kobe, but oh, how their living rooms will fall silent, how all those fans will lean in from the sofas, their handfuls of chips and pretzels halting between bag and mouth as The Star takes that long Walk of Shame from the curb to the courthouse door. If a single network had the rights to this show they’d clean up handily, but the viewers to this saga will be divided between the major networks, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Court TV, and ESPN. And given the staggeringly large sums of money at stake in the outcome, I suspect even CNBC will dispatch a crew to Eagle for The People of the State of Colorado vs. Kobe Bean Bryant.
And pity the poor people of Eagle, whose misfortune it will soon be to endure a spectacle seldom seen out there in the vast, howling wilderness between Beverly Hills and the Hudson River. For coming in by the plane-, train-, and truckload are the massed armies of reporters, cameramen, and other media types who will lay siege to the town from now until the day Bryant is either acquitted or slapped in irons and bundled off to the big house. Descending upon Eagle at this moment is a force surely unequaled since a certain former NFL star beat the rap after hacking two people to death here in Los Angeles nine years ago.
For those in the news trade, those days in L.A. were the heady times. It was the Normandy invasion of crime stories, and veterans of the campaign still revel in the telling of the tales. Those too young to have been there will soon be scuffing up their shoes on bar rails all over Eagle, buying round after round of drinks — strong ones — for those who were. “Here’s your Glenlivet, Geraldo. Finish your story about Judge Ito . . .”
Yes, the sad echoes of the Simpson trial ring loudly even now, and the show has only just begun. Offering commentary on Fox News Friday night was Marcia Clark, who for some reason beyond my understanding is still sought out for these occasions despite having culminated her modest career as a prosecutor with a spectacular failure. How long before some enterprising reporter puts O. J. himself in front of a camera, perhaps to advise Bryant on how properly to conduct oneself in the role of celebrity defendant?
Just as in the Simpson trial, just as in every trial conducted on a grand stage before a world audience, the truth of what may have happened between accuser and accused will be subordinated to theatrics, for in a trial of this type it is not the facts that carry the day but the presentation. The overture is playing now; the attorneys on both sides are setting the stage, reaching out to the world, to be sure, but more importantly to those twelve ordinary citizens of Eagle County, Colorado who today may not even have heard of Kobe Bryant, but who will soon find that jury summons in the mailbox. The courtroom may yet be dark, but the trial has already started.
Only two people in the world know what really happened in that hotel room on the night of June 30, and each has a compelling reason to present his own version as the truth. There are those who say Kobe Bryant is not a man who would commit rape, and maybe they’re right. But these are the same people who only a week ago said he would never cheat on his wife. In the end we may still not know the truth, we will only know the verdict.
— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.