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Jury reaches verdict in trial over Kobe Bryant helicopter crash site photos


(LOS ANGELES) — A jury awarded Vanessa Bryant $16 million in her invasion of privacy trial against Los Angeles County over photos taken at the scene of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and their 13-year-old daughter, according to ABC Los Angeles station KABC.

The jury also awarded $15 million to Chris Chester, an Orange County financial adviser who had also sued the county over photos taken of his wife and daughter, who were killed in the same crash, according to KABC.

The jury deliberated for several hours before reaching the verdict.

The federal trial began on Aug. 10, with the jury hearing from those in law enforcement, first responders and the family of the victims, including Vanessa Bryant and Chester. Attorneys gave closing statements on Tuesday and Wednesday after nearly two weeks of testimony.

Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit several months after the 2020 crash against Los Angeles County, alleging that first responders took graphic photos of human remains at the scene as “souvenirs” and shared them with others. She claimed she suffered emotional distress and sued for an undisclosed amount of damages for negligence and invasion of privacy.

In July, U.S. District Judge John Walter decided to consolidate Vanessa Bryant’s and Chester’s cases into one trial.

Kobe Bryant and their daughter, Gianna, were headed to a basketball game at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks along with others connected to the basketball program on Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas. All nine people on board were killed.

Vanessa Bryant took the stand in Los Angeles federal court on Friday, telling the jury she lives in fear every day that the photos could be leaked and wants “justice for my husband and my daughter.”

Chester took the witness stand on Thursday, telling the jury he was in “disbelief” after hearing reports that deputies and firefighters took and shared photos of his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton.

“It was grief on top of grief,” he said, calling for “justice and accountability.”

Throughout the trial, the defense maintained that the photos have not surfaced online since the tragedy. Multiple county fire and sheriff’s personnel have also testified that they deleted whatever crash-site pictures they had on their cellphones.

Both Vanessa Bryant’s and Chester’s lawsuits argue that the photos were shared before being deleted by first responders.

The jury was instructed that they could find either the county sheriff’s office or fire department, or both, to be liable, and that Vanessa Bryant or Chester, or both, were warranted damages.

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