An emotional and heart-wrenching two-week trial came to an end yesterday for Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Chris Chester.
The plaintiffs were suing The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) and Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) for disseminating crash scene photos of the day Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant were killed when their helicopter went down, along with seven other people on board. A judge found in favor of the plaintiffs, and it's a small salve over a massive wound the Bryant and Chester families have been dealing with since the tragic loss of their loved ones was made more traumatic by the actions of the LASD and LAFD>
Vanessa Bryant Wins $16M after Emotional Trial
A jury in Los Angeles found that the LASD and LAFD shared gruesome crash scene photos of Kobe and Gianna, as well as the other passengers, after documenting them for investigation.
Bryant has shared that seeing the unedited photos traumatized her and family, and that it's caused harm and suffering that could have been avoided had the investigating responders not shared the images.
People reports, "The final verdict was reached late Wednesday afternoon with the jury finding Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) and Fire Department (LAFD) did share photos of the bodies of Bryant and Chris' loved ones and in doing so invaded their privacy and caused emotional distress.
The jury ordered the LASD to pay Vanessa $10 million and to pay Chris a total of $9 million. While the LAFD is ordered to pay the pair $6 million each."
Bryant and Chester testified during the trial about the emotional distress that they experienced after the images were shared across 28 devices owned by LASD and over a dozen first responders.
People adds, "Former bartender Victor Gutierrez was one of the first witnesses to testify in the weeks-long trial. Gutierrez told the courtroom on Thursday that shortly after the Jan. 26, 2020 crash, he was approached by sheriff's deputy trainee Joey Cruz during his bartending shift, who asked if Gutierrez wanted to see a photo of the victim's bodies.
The jury also heard from Ralph Mendez Jr., a bar patron who said he witnessed the interaction and then filed a formal complaint with the sheriff's department."
Bryant recounted going down to the Sheriff's station and asking them to protect the crash site from the paparazzi, pleading, "If you can't bring my babies back, can you please secure the area?"
- Chester explaining to the court how he felt before he realized the crash was fatal.
Lots of things were going through my head, but I thought I was going to a hospital ... I had started to get an eerie feeling.
Three days later, it was revealed that first responders were sharing the images. Bryant tore at the heartstrings of those watching when she described what it felt like to know responders took images of her daughter Gianna's body, found a day after the crash in a nearby ravine, telling a riveted court room she was horrified that those sent to help were "taking advantage that her daddy wasn't there to protect her" because he was at the morgue.
Moving On and Remembering
Healing from the unimaginable has been a journey in strength and courage from Bryant and those left behind.
Holding her head high in the face of the gross violation of her family's dignity and privacy, Bryant has found a way to keep moving forward - her children an inspiration to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Us shares details of the dedication Bryant made to Kobe and Gianna at a memorial at the Los Angeles Staples Center in late February, and shared her words in part for Gianna, “‘Gianna had a sweet grace about her,’ Vanessa added. ‘Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm, but she was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine. … Gianna made us all proud, and she still does.’
She went on: ‘I miss her sweet kisses, I miss her cleverness, I miss her sarcasm, her wit and that adorable sly side smile followed with a grin and a burst of laughter. We shared the same ‘cat that ate the canary’ grin. Gigi was sunshine. She brightened my day every day.’
In her eulogy, Vanessa mourned some of the opportunities she would miss without Gianna in her life. ‘We will not be able to able to see Gigi go to high school with Natalia and ask her how her day went. We didn’t get the chance to teach her how to drive a car. I won’t be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I’ll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own. … I cannot imagine life without her.'”
Although $16M won't bring Kobe or Gianna back, or ease the pain caused by the gross negligence and actions of those working for the LASD and LAFD, it can help those who survived them carve out a more secure life for the children Vanessa and Kobe created together and the future they won't get to enjoy side by side.