Kobe Bryant‘s widow broke down in tears in court during her invasion of privacy trial on Wednesday after her attorney told the jury of how first responders leaked graphic photos of the late NBA star and their daughter’s mutilated bodies.
Courtroom sketches obtained by the Daily Mail show as Vanessa Bryant sobbed inside the federal courtroom while her lawyer revealed how photos of her husband’s “decapitated body” went public after sheriff’s deputies and firefighters showed the gruesome images to random patrons at a California bar, two days after his death following a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, along with seven other passengers died in the crash back on January 26, 2020, as the group were en route to a girls basketball tournament where his daughter was scheduled to play.
Like this is Vanessa Bryant’s court pictures from the case talking about first responders taking pics of Kobe’s DECAPITATED HEAD. the drawing just never matches the mood. Idk pic.twitter.com/5TXAx2Gqz9
— meesh (@platonicdoom) August 11, 2022
Multi-Million Dollar Federal Lawsuit Against LA County Officials Over Invasion Of Privacy
Vanessa had filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in September 2020 regarding the leaked photos, which she claims has caused “severe emotional distress.”
She added that she became “physically ill” thinking of strangers “gawking” over pictures of her dead husband and daughter’s mangled corpses.
The lawsuit, documents of which were obtained by journalist Shakira S. Briggs, alleges that officers had taken the photos “for their own personal gratification” and not for any kind of investigative reason.
Her lawyer, Luis Li, detailed how authorities “exploited the accident” by taking and leaking pictures of Kobe and Giana, telling the 10-member jury that officers had taken the photos as “souvenirs” during opening statements on Wednesday.
Li played video showing Deputy Joey Cruz inside the Baja California Bar & Grille in Norwalk, where he can be seen sharing his cell phone with the bartender to show him something.
First Responders Shared Gruesome Photos Of Kobe, Daughter’s Mangled Bodies
Video shows as the bartender “visibly recoils” at what he sees on the officer’s cell phone, which was reportedly of Kobe Bryant’s lifeless body, before walking away.
“January 26, 2020, was and always will be the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life,” Li told the courtroom per Rolling Stone. “This case is about accountability. We’re going to prove to you that county employees took pictures and shared them widely.”
Bryant’s attorney added that authorities “took close-ups of limbs… and burnt flesh,” which were heavily discussed within the sheriff’s department and often shown during “settings that had nothing to do with (the investigation),” according to the lawsuit.
Li also played an audio clip of a detective stating his wife refused to view the photos after likening the victims to “piles of meat,” the Daily Mail reports.
The outlet also states the complaint claims another officer had used the photos to “try to impress a woman at a bar, bragging about how he had been at the crash site.”
LA County Officials Say Case “Has No Legal Merit” And Call Suit A “Money Grab”
Meanwhile, the county alleges Vanessa’s invasion of privacy lawsuit has “no legal merit” due to the fact that the photos were never actually released to the public or the media.
“It is undisputed that the complained-of photos have never been in the media, on the Internet, or otherwise publicly disseminated. Plaintiff Vanessa Bryant has never seen county photos of her family members,” attorneys for the county argued.
County lawyer Skip Miller argued that Vanessa suffered emotional distress from the deaths and not the photos, of which the sheriff ordered to be deleted.
Miller added that “the county did its job and looks forward to showing that at trial,” while county officials have called the suit a “money grab.”
However, California state law, which was created due to the deadly crash, has made it illegal for first responders to take unauthorized pictures of dead victims when at the scene.
Vanessa Bryant’s Lawyers Accuse County Of “Scorched-Earth Discovery Tactics”
The county had previously agreed to paying $2.5 million to two families of the deceased victims from the crash in different suits, but Vanessa declined to settle her case, presumably for more money, according to the outlet.
Vanessa’s attorneys have painted county officials as bullies, citing a request for a psychiatric evaluation of Vanessa to determine if she indeed suffered emotional distress because of the photos, calling out their use of “scorched-earth discovery tactics” in an effort to have Bryant’s family drop their lawsuits.
Vanessa also filed a lawsuit against the helicopter charter company used by her husband and daughter on the day of the fatal crash, as well as the deceased pilot’s estate.