A request made by Vanessa Bryant, widow of late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, to obtain a pretrial deposition testimony from two Los Angeles County officials has been granted, according to a report by USA Today.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and County Fire Chief Daryl Osby will be questioned under oath about their department’s employees sharing photos of human remains at the helicopter crash site where Bryant’s basketball star husband, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others died on January 26, 2020. Bryant is suing the County for invasion of privacy and negligence.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick said he was granting the request for the pretrial deposition because Villanueva and Osby have “unique firsthand, non-repetitive knowledge relevant to the issues in this case,” which is “not entirely obtainable” by other means.
“While we disagree with the court’s decision, we will make both the sheriff and fire chief available for deposition,” said County attorney Skip Miller. “Their testimony will not change the fact that there is no evidence any photos taken by County first responders have ever been publicly disseminated.”
Bryant’s lawyer states through court documents that Villanueva “personally promised Mrs. Bryant that he would protect the remains of her husband and daughter from desecration by unauthorized photographers.”
The document also reveals that Villanueva “personally described the sharing of photos of human remains by law enforcement officers as a problem as old as the Polaroid camera” and admitted that “police officers keep so-called ‘death books’ of such photos.”
As part of the County’s defense, they are asking the judge to require Bryant to have a psychiatric evaluation to rule whether her emotional distress was caused by the sharing of the graphic photos or solely by the death of her husband and daughter. The trial between Bryant and the County is scheduled for February 2022. Bryant seeks compensatory and punitive damages to “make an example of [the defendants] to the community.”