LOS ANGELES – An emotionally charged week of testimony will culminate today with the widow of Kobe Bryant testifying in a lawsuit she brought against LA County for sharing accident scene photos of her husband, daughter, and others who were killed in a helicopter crash in Jan. 2020.
Thus far, the plaintiffs in the case, Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, have failed to produce evidence that first responders either broke the law and/or any department (Sheriff or Fire) when they allegedly shared photos of the bodies of the nine victims who perished in the crash.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated there is a department policy forbidding the sharing of crime scene photos, but not of accidents.
Months after the fatal crash, it was revealed in news reports that photos of the accident scene were being shared by members of the department.
Lawmakers, with the support of Villanueva, created legislation making it a crime to take and share accident scene photos.
The new law, which went into effect in 2021, will make it “a misdemeanor for a first responder, as defined, who responds to the scene of an accident or crime to capture the photographic image of a deceased person for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.”
The law stipulates that a first responder can be required to pay fines of up to $1,000 per offense for taking or sharing any such photograph.
The plaintiffs case hinges on their “fear” that photos will make it into the public sphere and are suing for invasion of privacy and emotional distress.
The plaintiffs have presented no evidence of the photos being available on the internet, and the testimony heard thus far corroborates that.
Vanessa Bryant is the plaintiffs last witness with the defense expected to begin calling witnesses early next week.
It is unclear how much LA County is spending to defend themselves in this suit as they are withholding releasing records of the billing until next week.
Other family members who have perished in the crash have taken settlements, however, Chester and Bryant were allowed to combine their lawsuits and are seeking an undisclosed amount for damages.