Text Messages a Factor in Kobe Rape Case

Cell phone text messages could some day be as important in criminal trials as DNA evidence is now — and the Kobe Bryant (search) rape case might be the first major test.

A private cell-phone text message exchange between the basketball star’s accuser and her ex-boyfriend has been ruled “relevant for discovery” in the case, and Judge Terry Ruckriegle (search) has ordered it released to the defense and prosecution.

The judge also told attorneys not to talk about the contents of the messages, which were subpoenaed by the defense last October.

The Los Angeles Lakers (search) player’s legal team has claimed the message was sent within a couple of hours of the alleged rape at an Eagle, Colo., spa resort where Bryant was staying and his accuser worked, but Fox News has learned it was actually sent the following afternoon near the time of the young woman’s rape exam.

This isn’t the first case in which a text message — a note typed using the buttons of a cell phone and sent to another cell phone owner — has been an issue, but it’s the first time the method of communication has wound up in a high-profile trial that’s captivated a national audience.

Go to the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by Fox News' Carol McKinley.