Jury selected in Vanessa Bryant’s case against LA County over photos of Kobe’s helicopter crash
(CNN) — A jury of six women and four men was selected Wednesday in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against Los Angeles County over gruesome photos taken of the fatal helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe, daughter Gianna and seven others.
Opening statements are set to begin in the trial Wednesday afternoon. The trial is expected to last about two weeks, and witnesses are likely to include Vanessa Bryant and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
The jurors selected include a nun, someone who works in TV production for NBC Universal, a college student, a real estate investor, a pharmaceutical researcher, a computer science professor and a restaurant host.
Of the 22 total potential jurors questioned, some mentioned having “strong feelings” about Vanessa and/or Kobe Bryant. At least one potential juror mentioned “strong feelings” about Villanueva. None of these people were selected.
The trial comes more than two years after the retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
In the federal lawsuit, Vanessa Bryant claimed that photos of the January 2020 crash were shared by county fire and sheriff’s department employees in settings irrelevant to the investigation, including at a bar. Filed in September 2020, the lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages, claiming civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress and violation of privacy.
However, the county has argued that the “severe emotional and mental injuries” were not caused by the county or the photos, but by the fatal crash itself. The plaintiffs have not seen the crash site photos, which “were never publicly disseminated,” the county argued.
In March 2020, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said all of those photos had been deleted and that eight sheriff’s deputies were facing administrative action.
The helicopter passengers were heading from Orange County to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game in which Bryant was to coach and Gianna and two others aboard were to play.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the helicopter pilot pushed the limits of bad weather flying rules, climbed into clouds, became disoriented about the helicopter’s position relative to the horizon and made a descending left turn into a cloud-obscured hillside.
Bryant played his entire professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers and won five NBA championships before his retirement in April 2016.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an invasion-of-privacy bill called the “Kobe Bryant Act” in September 2020 that makes 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.” The misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to $1,000 per violation.
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