An attorney for Bryant’s widow claims that Los Angeles County has employed “scorched-earth discovery tactics” to pressure her and her loved ones into abandoning their lawsuit.
A jury of six women and four men have been selected to hear arguments in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against Los Angeles County, concerning claims that first responders circulated “gruesome” photos of the fatal helicopter crash that killed her late husband, basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
According to CNN, opening statements in the trial began Wednesday afternoon, with the trial expected to last an additional two weeks.
Witnesses are likely to include Vanessa Bryant, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The jurors selected include a nun, an NBC Universal producer, a university student, a real estate investor, a pharmaceutical researcher, a computer science professor, and a restaurant host.
CNN observes that, of the 22 potential jurors, several were dismissed for expressing “strong feelings” about either Vanessa or Kobe Bryant.
At least one of the potential jurors, says CNN, mentioned additional “strong feelings” about Sheriff Villanueva.
The trial is expected to commence nearly two years after the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others. As LegalReader.com has reported before, Bryant and the other passengers were taking a chartered helicopter from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park.
Just over halfway through the flight, the helicopter encountered dense fog in the hills around Calabasas.
The pilot, who may have become disoriented by the poor weather conditions, then inadvertently flew the helicopter into a hillside.
There were no survivors.
In her lawsuit, Vanessa Bryant claims that first responders took “irrelevant” photographs of the crash site, which they then shared amongst themselves and showed to acquaintances and strangers alike. As LegalReader.com reported earlier this year, one individual informed the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that he was “disturbed” by how some first responders were sharing the pictures inside bars and other entertainment venues.
“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought that sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and members of the public have gawked at gratuitous images of her deceased husband and child,” Bryant’s lawsuit states. “She lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”
Bryant is requesting that she be awarded undisclosed damages for civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress, and violations of privacy.
Los Angeles County contends that the “severe emotional distress” she experienced was not caused by the circulation of photographs, but by the crash itself.
Furthermore, Los Angeles alleges that Bryant never even saw the alleged photographs, which “were never publicly disseminated.”
In March 2020, Sheriff Villanueva said that all of the photographs had been contained and deleted, with at least eight deputies facing administrative action for misconduct.
National Public Radio notes that the litigation has, at times, “been ugly.”
Los Angeles County had, for instance, demanded that Bryant seek psychiatric evaluation to determine whether her distressed was caused by the circulation of the crash photos, or her grief at losing her husband and daughter.
Bryant’s attorneys criticized the county’s demands as “scorched-earth discovery tactics” intended to bully Bryant and her other family members into abandoning their lawsuits.
While Los Angeles has said that it has sympathy for Bryant and her family members, it nevertheless dismissed the lawsuit as a “cash grab.”