In his opening statements, Vanessa's lawyer Luis Li shared the emotional impact the images have had on the NBA great's widow.
On Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe and 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of 13-year-old Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, 46, 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Christina Mauser, 38, and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.
The following September, Vanessa sued L.A. County for damages for emotional distress and mental anguish following the news that eight L.A. County Sheriff's Department deputies allegedly took graphic photographs of the victims and shared them with unauthorized people.
Serving as Vanessa's counsel on Wednesday, Li said a witness accused Deputy Joey Cruz of showing disturbing images of Kobe that were on his phone while at a local bar, per Rolling Stone.
In his opening statements, according to the publication, Li showed the 10-member jury footage of Deputy Cruz at the Baja California Bar & Grill in Norwalk. In the clip, the officer appears to show a bartender something on his cell phone. The bartender then walked away.
"January 26, 2020, was and always will be the worst day of Vanessa Bryant's life," Li reportedly told the jury. "County employees exploited the accident. They took and shared pictures of Kobe and Gianna as souvenirs. …They poured salt in an unhealable wound."
He added that first responders "walked around the wreckage and took pictures of broken bodies from the helicopter crash. They took close-ups of limbs, of burnt flesh. It shocks the conscience."
He then let the jury hear audio of an officer stating that his wife did not want to see the images after he said they were "piles of meat," according to Rolling Stone.
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Li alleged that one responding officer took close pictures of Kobe after the crash, while a firefighter also allegedly snapped photos as a deputy showed him around the site, according to the New York Post.
The trial began just hours after jury selection was completed, per multiple outlets.
In a December 2021 declaration filed in response to a motion by the Los Angeles County to dismiss her lawsuit, Bryant said she's felt "tremendous pain and distress."
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Bryant said in part, "It infuriates me that the people I trusted to protect the dignity of my husband and daughter abused their positions to obtain souvenirs of their deaths, as though possessing pictures of their remains somehow makes them special."
"I feel sick at the thought that deputies and firefighters have gawked at photos of my husband's and child's bodies without any reason," she added. "I also feel extreme sadness and anger knowing that photos of my husband's and daughter's bodies were laughed about while shown at a bar and an awards banquet. Given how many people had the photos, I am confident these were not the only times the photos were shown off."