A lawyer for Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa has claimed pictures of the basketball star's remains were shared by emergency services 'for a laugh'.
Vanessa filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County in September 2020, a few months after Bryant and her daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash, claiming first responders had photographed and shared images of Bryant and the 13-year-old after they were killed.
The lawsuit claimed 'sheriff's deputies, firefighters, and members of the public' had 'gawked' at the gratuitous images, adding: "[Vanessa] lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online."
LA County has claimed first responders did not share any photos from the scene of the crash, but lawyer Luis Li opposed this claim in his opening statement in the trial on Wednesday (10 August).
The lawyer alleged images had been taken on mobile phones by a deputy and a fire captain before being used for 'virtual gossip' and viewed 'for a laugh'.
“They were shared by deputies playing video games,” Li claimed, adding: “They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them."
The lawyer presented a security video of an off-duty sheriff's deputy showing photos to a bartender, as well as an image of the pair laughing together, and claimed the county had failed to conduct an investigation to make sure every copy of the photo was accounted for.
Meanwhile, county lawyer J. Mira Hashmall argued taking photos of the site is 'essential' and told jurors that the fact the images have not appeared in public prove the responders did their jobs appropriately.
Hashmall commented: “They're not online. They're not in the media. They've never even been seen by the plaintiffs themselves. That is not an accident. That is a function of how diligent they were.”
Hashmall claimed Sheriff Alex Villanueva ordered responders involved to delete the photos, and claimed Li only had the video of the bartender because the Sheriff's Department had received it on the same day they received a complaint from a witness in the bar.
The deputy in the video was said to be struggling emotionally after witnessing the crash scene, and Hashmall claimed the bartender was a longtime friend who he was confiding in.
“He pulled out his phone, and that should not have happened,” she said. “In a lapse, in a moment of weakness, he showed those photos, and he has regretted it every day of his life.
After Vanessa filed her lawsuit, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an invasion-of-privacy bill making it illegal for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene 'for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose'.
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