Judge Bars Word 'Victim' From Kobe Trial

Participants in Kobe Bryant's (search) trial will be prohibited from using the term "victim" to describe the woman accusing the NBA (search) star of rape.

In a ruling made public Tuesday, state District Judge Terry Ruckriegle said he agreed with Bryant's lawyers that the term implies guilt and should not be used at trial. He said she must be referred to by name; or in jury instructions, where she must be referred to as "person."

The use of the term "victim" in the context of the trial, Ruckriegle said, "could improperly suggest that a crime had been committed such that the presumption of innocence might be jeopardized."

Bryant, 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. If convicted, the Los Angeles Lakers (search) star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation and a fine up to $750,000.

Defense attorney Hal Haddon had argued referring to the 19-year-old as a victim would impair jurors' ability to impartially consider the evidence. He suggested what he called more neutral terms such as "complaining witness" or "alleged victim."

"Until Mr. Bryant is acquitted, he is a victim, or at least, arguably is," Haddon said during a May 11 hearing on the issue.

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said the word has specific definitions under law that guarantees crime victims compensation for certain expenses and state-funded therapeutic services.

"To strip her of that designation, you would deny that to her and revictimize her," Hurlbert argued.

In his ruling, Ruckriegle said there are numerous definitions of "victim" in state law. For his part, the judge said he will continue to refer to the woman as alleged victim.