An attorney for Los Angeles County said Wednesday there’s not enough evidence to prove first responders shared images of Kobe Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash with the public — before jurors began weighing the case filed by the NBA star’s widow over the photos.
“The evidence isn’t there,” defense attorney Mira Hashmall told the jury during closing statements in Los Angeles federal court. “This is a pictures case but there are no pictures.”
Hashmall said county deputies and firefighters took photos of the horrific January 2020 crash that killed the Lakers legend and eight other to document it — but never shared those images with anyone from the public.
“Can you fault them for being confused, if that was a foot or an arm?” she asked jurors. “We expect our first responders to be heroes but they are human.”
Before deliberations on the 11th day of the trial over Vanessa Bryant’s federal invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the county, Hashmall urged jurors to consider that none of the images have ever emerged in the media or online.
She said the case hinges on whether the gruesome photos were “publicly disseminated,” and on if there is a widespread practice of sharing private images among the county’s first responders.
Hashmall conceded that deputies violated county procedures — but not Vanessa Bryant’s constitutional rights — because they only showed the photos to other law enforcement officers.
“There were a lot of lives lost that day,” she said. “[Plaintiffs] want you to ignore the facts … and rely on emotion.”
Meanwhile, Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, reminded jurors that a bartender testified previously that a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy showed him images of Kobe Bryant’s remains.
Li called that a violation of Bryant’s dignity, saying the photos were “not public and not [for] deputies to share.”
He added, “Mrs. Bryant is here today to seek justice and accountability for Kobe and [her late daughter] Gigi,” who was also killed in the crash.
Inside the courtroom, Vanessa Bryant burst into tears along with her 19-year-old daughter, Natalia, as they sat next to Lakers general manager and close family friend Rob Pelinka.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for Chris Chester — who lost loved ones in the same helicopter crash — asked the jury to award him and the NBA star’s widow around $40 million each over photos of the wreck shared by first responders.
Earlier this month, California bartender Victor Gutierrez testified that a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Joey Cruz showed him photos of the late-Lakers player’s gory helicopter crash scene.
Lawyers played footage from the bar in which Cruz is seen looking at his phone, showing it to the bartender and laughing.
The judge has told jurors they will be required to deliberate until 4 p.m. each day until they come to a decision.