For months now, Vanessa Bryant has been pursuing legal action against Los Angeles County in the aftermath of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna and seven others. Vanessa is specifically suing because of “emotional distress” and more as a result of crash site photos being taken and disseminated by first responders on the scene. Following delays, the proceedings are finally set to start this week but, ahead of that, the presiding judge has made a key ruling regarding how taunting messages of Kobe Bryant will come into play during the case.
In 2020, Vanessa Bryant was reportedly sent multiple social media messages before it was revealed that the aforementioned first responders had spread the photos. Judge John F. Walter recently ruled that said posts cannot be shown to jurors during the trial, per Law & Crime. Though Walter did rule that any of the messages that were sent after that knowledge was revealed can be shown to jurors. Walter acknowledged that the messages are “hearsay,” as LA County’s lawyer argued. But the judge also says that such posts can be presented because jurors won’t be looking at them in order to accept them as truth. Instead, they’ll be used to give an idea of what the plaintiff was feeling when she saw them.
John F. Walter also spoke to the messages that cannot be included, specifically discussing one that he says is “admittedly relevant as a taunt.” Despite his thinking on that, Walter made note of the fact that said post includes a doctored image not taken by LA County officials, saying that it has “shock value that is obviously prejudicial.”
One of the messages that is eligible for presentation, though, is one that threatened to “leak Kobe’s body” to the public. Another acceptable post featured an aerial shot that is believed to have been snapshotted by the county. When arguing on Vanessa Bryant’s behalf, attorney Luis Li said that his client and her family “will have to have a very difficult relationship with the Internet for the rest of their lives,” due to the photos being circulated.
Vanessa Bryant has experienced a number of ups and downs during the lead-up to the trial. In early July, Bryant’s legal team was scolded for presenting too much evidence during a pretrial hearing. Bryant more recently brought on an expert from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation case. Said person was a rebuttal specialist who argued on behalf of Depp, who was ultimately favored in the verdict.
As Kobe Bryant’s widow has continued through her legal situation, other lawsuits stemming from the crash have taken shape. Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter were also killed during the incident, is also suing in regard to the circulation of the crash site photos. Though he’ll have to proceed with legal action on his own, as he reportedly won’t be able to ride Vanessa’s “coattails” by having the cases consolidated. Another lawsuit was also filed by the union for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, though that Bryant photo case has since settled.
With jury selection taking place this week, Vanessa Bryant’s case will truly start in earnest. We’ll have to wait and see what other messages are shared in the courtroom. However, one may assume that said posts could be very important to determining the outcome of the case.