A federal jury found Wednesday that Los Angeles County must pay Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, $16 million for emotional distress caused by deputies and firefighters sharing photos of the bodies of the NBA star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, taken at the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed them.
The verdict comes after nearly two weeks of testimony, and the jury deliberated for four and a half hours before reaching the verdict. Vanessa Bryant cried quietly as it was read, per ESPN via the Associated Press.
The federal trial began on Aug. 10, as the jury heard from those in law enforcement, first responders, and the family of the victims, including Vanessa Bryant. Attorneys gave closing statements Tuesday and Wednesday, per ABC News’ Meredith Deliso and Nadine El-Bawab.
Deliso and El-Bawab gave a summary of the background of the trial:
Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit several months after the 2020 crash against Los Angeles County, alleging 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.
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.”
Her co-plaintiff, Chris Chester, who was also suing over photos taken of his wife and daughter, were awarded $15 million. The Associated Press reports, “Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys did not give jurors a dollar amount they thought their client deserved, but Chester’s attorney gave them suggested guidelines that would have meant tens of millions for each plaintiff.”
Throughout the trial, the defense maintained the photos have not surfaced online since the tragedy. Multiple county fire and sheriff’s personnel have also testified they deleted whatever crash-site pictures they had on their cellphones.
County attorney J. Mira Hashmall argued during the trial the photos were a necessary tool for assessing the situation.
The basketball world continues to honor Kobe Bryant’s legacy, including Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. The All-Star Game MVP was named after Bryant, and there have been calls to change the NBA logo to Bryant’s image — an idea Vanessa Bryant has backed. The WNBA has also honored Gianna Bryant’s legacy, as it was her dream to one day make the league.
The jury returned its verdict on the city of Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant Day, which is marked on Aug. 24 because it uses both of his jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — and is the day after his birthday. Tuesday would have been his 44th birthday.