The lawyer for Vanessa Bryant, widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, said an institutional “culture of callousness” allowed Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters to shoot and share photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant, Gigi Bryant and other victims of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed everyone on board.
Vanessa Bryant was visibly shaken and reduced to tears according to reports, during her lawyer Luis Li’s opening statements. Li told the jury that cellphone photos shot at the crash scene by a police deputy and a fire captain were “visual gossip” viewed “for a laugh like they were souvenirs” and had no official purpose for the case.
“They were shared by deputies playing video games,” Li said. “They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them.”
The attorney representing Los Angeles County in her opening statements countered by saying that still photography by first responders are a necessary step in all cases.
“Site photography is essential,” county lawyer J. Mira Hashmall said.
To paint an a picture of the callousness by the officials Li played the deposition tape of a sheriff’s detective who admitted his wife didn’t want to see the gruesome photos, which he described as “piles of meat.”
Happening today in Los Angeles: The first day of trial in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against LA County over photos taken and distributed of human remains at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna.
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) August 10, 2022
Li also showed a security video of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy at a bar showing the photos to a bartender. He then showed an image of the men laughing together later. Li recounted additional incidents of fire and police officials sharing the photos outside of official settings for several weeks following the crash.
Of course, Bryant was a world famous athlete and immensely popular, especially in the Los Angeles area. But people’s morbid curiosity and fascination doesn’t mean Vanessa and her daughters shouldn’t be afforded privacy in an extremely distressful and personal moment.
“Jan. 26, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life. The county made it much worse,” Li said. “They poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law two years ago making it a crime for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene for purposes unrelated to the case.
This trial operates in a murky area as it pertains to the plaintiff’s, in this case Vanessa Bryant, emotional state and how her privacy being invaded altered said state. It will be up to her lawyer to prove that the sharing of the photos outside of where necessary for the case, was an invasion of privacy which caused additional emotional distress.
Of course the county lawyer will argue that it was the crash that is the root cause of said distress and not the circulation of the photos.
It’s hard to imagine a jury not being sympathetic to a grieving widow who lost her husband and one of her daughters. Regardless of the context that the defense presents, the photos should not have been shared anywhere or with anyone outside the parameters of what was necessary for the investigation.