Vanessa Bryant: Jury awards plaintiffs $31M in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos

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Bryant was awarded $16 million in damages and Chris Chester was awarded $15 million.

Immediately after the verdict was read, Bryant hugged her lawyers. As she continued to cry, Bryant tearfully hugged her daughter Natalia in the front row. She left the courthouse without making a statement.

In the process were photos taken by LA County deputies and firefighters that contained not only wreckage from the helicopter but also the mutilated bodies of the dead, including NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, Chester’s wife Sarah. , his daughter Payton and five others .

Bryant and Chester argued that the photos of their loved ones caused emotional distress and violated their privacy. Each testified that they lived in fear that the photos might surface, despite LA County’s claim that each photo had been destroyed.

Jurors listened to 11 days of graphic testimonials. Witnesses at the trial included a deputy who said he showed graphical footage of the scene while he was in a bar, another deputy who said he shared photos while playing a video game, a deputy who sent dozens of photos to someone he didn’t know, and a firefighter who showed the footage to other personnel during an awards cocktail hour.

The plaintiff’s only claim that was not supported by jurors was the finding that the provincial fire service was not liable for a long-standing widespread practice or habit of taking illegal photos. The sheriff’s department was held liable for the same problem.

In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a privacy invasion bill called the “Kobe Bryant Act,” which makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene “for any other purpose.” than an official law enforcement purpose.” The misdemeanor misdemeanor is punishable by up to $1,000 per violation.

Coincidentally, Los Angeles has declared Wednesday, August 24, “Kobe Bryant Day” in honor of the Los Angeles Lakers star’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24, which he wore throughout his NBA career. The Lakers have retired both numbers.

Defense wanted to separate emotions from legality

The deliberations began Wednesday shortly after a Los Angeles County attorney claimed the trial is a “photo case without photos,” noting that the gruesome photos of human remains have never actually been seen by the public — or even the plaintiffs.

“No photos is good. No photos means no public dissemination…no risk of other people making mistakes,” Crown Prosecutor Mira Hashmall said in closing arguments at the trial.

In an emotional rebuttal, Bryant’s attorney Luis Li argued on Wednesday that the county’s actions in taking such photos were reckless, inhumane and caused emotional distress.

“They poured salt into an incurable wound and that’s why we’re all here today,” he said.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Los Angeles County attorneys tried to separate Vanessa Bryant’s emotional testimony from the legal issues the jury must consider.

Hashmall argued that the county’s actions to remove the photos meant they were never publicly distributed, and she further argued that first responders who took photos did not violate Bryant’s rights.

She urged the jury to consider the law, which would allow a ruling against the county only if it can be proven that the county’s policies were inadequate to prevent the photos from being circulated or if there was a long-standing custom of such behavior within the sheriff and fire. departments.

“If the county didn’t take photo sharing seriously, why is this whole thing based on the county’s investigation?” she said.

Judges will also have to grapple with what is “the audience” in this case. The plaintiffs argued that any deputy without an investigative reason to consider the photos public should be considered. One of the officers shared photos of human remains with another deputy while they played the “Call of Duty” video game, and another showed them to a bartender he considered a friend.

Hashmall agreed that this was wrong, but asked the jury to consider whether it “shattered the conscience,” a legal threshold the jury must consider when making its verdict.

“Does it scare the conscience that he had to talk?” asked Hasham. She also noted that the deputy was being disciplined for his actions. “That’s not a constitutional issue, that’s a provincial issue,” she said.

In their rebuttal, Bryant’s attorneys argued that the photos could still exist because one of the deputies AirDrop took them to a firefighter who has not been identified. They also allege that the province failed to adequately investigate the incident, which may have led to photos of human remains having surfaced.

The rebuttal caused tears in the courtroom by Vanessa Bryant and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. Li, Bryant’s attorney, said the jury’s decision is “important for families in the United States who could one day suffer a tragedy.”

Referring to testimonials from experienced law enforcement officers, including Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Li reminded the jury of a practice of first responders keeping “books of death” since the Polaroid was around. Li told the jury, “This has been going on for decades. Make it stop.”

Vanessa Bryant wept audibly and grabbed tissues when Li stated that photos of family members’ shredded bodies are private and should not be shared with deputies only “because they wear a badge the next morning, to offer [the photos] to their wife.”

Describing how officers had to struggle to find Gianna Bryant’s remains in a ravine to photograph her, Li asked, “Does that scare the conscience?”

Li said that while there is no jury form to tick a box for better training, better policy or more discipline, there is only one box that jurors can check for damage: “Whatever you put in that box will serve to shed light on the legacy of Kobe and Gianna Bryant.”

Li closed with a round of applause for the two whistleblowers, one of whom was in the courtroom. Li was emotional when he said, “But for those people, we may never have heard of this.”

Cheri Mossburg of CNN contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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