Started by Awakened, Oct 08, 2004, 09:06 AM
Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, have policies against using names of alleged
Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, have policies against using names of alleged victims
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6194236/The Associated PressUpdated: 9:27 a.m. ET Oct. 8, 2004DENVER - Advocacy groups urged the media Thursday to refrain from identifying the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape while she pursues her civil lawsuit against the NBA star, despite a court ruling that will lift her anonymity in less than two weeks.The woman's attorneys had asked U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch to allow her to be known only as Jane Doe in court documents and during hearings. The judge rejected the request late Wednesday, saying it would be unfair to Bryant and that her privacy has already been invaded to the extent that granting her anonymity would have little effect.The woman's name has been on the Internet for months, in part because of mistakes by courthouse staff in posting case filings on a Web site. Tabloid newspapers have published her name and photos, and she was repeatedly identified in a nationally syndicated talk-radio show last fall."The main thing we're concerned about is not as much as (her name being used in) the court documents, as we're hoping this doesn't open the door for the mainstream media outlets to print her name," said Cynthia Stone, spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "Most people out there do not know her name. You actually have to look for it, and most people aren't going to actively look for her name."The woman's attorneys said the ruling was not a surprise and that she had been prepared for it. They also said they had no intention of dropping the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, have policies against using names of alleged victims of sexual assault. The Rocky Mountain News had urged Matsch to keep court proceedings as open as possible."We're just pleased that the judge upheld the important principle of openness in public courts," News Editor John Temple said in the paper Thursday. He said the paper has decided not to print her name for now.Geneva Overholser, a former Des Moines Register editor who discontinued her Web log for the Poynter Institute after editors declined to let her identify Bryant's accuser, said she thought the ruling would prompt many news organizations to name the woman.She said she believed it was common practice for the media to identify accusers in such cases when they made the step from criminal to civil court."Effectively, her name is public and the mainstream media are not the gatekeepers they once were. Not only does this strike me as unfair, but it's impractical and has not protected her from death threats or protected her privacy," said Overholser, who was a central figure in the Register's Pulitzer Prize-winning series that graphically recounted a rape victim's ordeal.In the 1990 series, an Iowa woman agreed to make her identity and ordeal public, helping to ease the stigma of rape.Legal experts said federal judges rarely allow plaintiffs to remain anonymous, except in cases involving children or whistleblowers who might fear employer retaliation."Kobe Bryant has not ever been convicted of anything," said Duke Law School professor Erwin Chemerinsky. "He is at this moment innocent in the eyes of the law and yet he has been besmirched by being accused of rape."Kevin Higgins of the Rape Assistance and Awareness Program said nationally, only 16 percent of alleged assault victims come forward to authorities. He said using the accuser's name in the civil case could discourage other accusers from even seeking help.