Explain this: Last week there was a lawyer standing in the courtroom where Vanessa Bryant is suing the County of Los Angeles for invasion of privacy, addressing the coroner, who was on the witness stand: “Captain (Emily) Tauscher, my name is Jennifer Bryant (no relation). I represent Vanessa Bryant. I have a few follow-up questions specific to Mr. Bryant and Gianna and their location and condition at the crash site.”
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney then started digging into the autopsy report for Kobe Bryant, putting it into the public record in open court, body part by body part.
I thought the trial was about photos; what do autopsy reports have to do with it?
I don’t get it. Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester are suing Los Angeles County first responders to a helicopter crash that killed nine, including her husband and daughter and Chester’s wife and daughter. She worries that photos taken by County employees may one day surface.
Vanessa, in effect, is suing taxpayers for millions of dollars for an invasion of privacy and emotional distress and yet it is her own lawyer who is providing deeply disturbing mental images for anyone sitting in the courtroom and who will later read the testimony.
I have read the testimony, Bryant’s lawyer asking the coroner about the autopsy of “Ms. Gianna Bryant,” and “the location where Gianna’s remains were found at the scene.” It’s not a narrative.to be repeated here.
Keep in mind most of the testimony being offered has already been heard in depositions, so the lawyers knew what was going to be said. Thus, Bryant and Chester were not in the courtroom, but their legal representatives asked questions in their places to elicit emotional reaction for the benefit of the jury,
“So, Ms. Tauscher, I’m going to turn to a few more specific questions, but I want to read very carefully and ask
very specific questions. I’m just looking for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer,” said Vanessa’s lawyer. “So, did Mr. Bryant have any charring or burns on his remains?”
The answer was “yes,” and what followed sure seemed like an invasion of privacy, Bryant’s lawyer wanting to know about his missing right hand, and “Was his right arm recovered separately from his body?”
The answer, “it was,” as most people might guess in such a devastating crash, but until Bryant’s lawyer asked, it had been left unsaid. And now there will be outrage, but directed at whom?
“Were his feet also recovered separately from his body?” the coroner was asked, and beyond enflaming the jury, why is Vanessa Bryant’s lawyer going there?
The lawyer for Chester went deeper, making “Private Ryan’s” opening scene of mayhem G-rated by comparison to his line of questioning about missing organs, including fallopian tubes and ovaries, and whether they could be found in Mrs. Chester’s autopsy. It read like nothing most people would want to read but apparently was delivered with the plaintiffs’ permission since their lawyers were asking about it.
The County tried to put a stop to such testimony and Bryant’s own request that the coroners bring their photos of the victims to court. Why would she even want the photos to be in the same building with her?
Please, please don’t misunderstand. This is no effort to let the County off the hook, who has some explaining to do in front of the jury.
There is a suggestion that since the photos taken by the first responders were deleted, the coroner’s photos were being offered in their place. The County said they would not be the same and suggested they would muddy the water for the jury who had been told no photos had surfaced.
Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a court document “because first responders deleted those photos or failed to preserve them, plaintiffs must present witness testimony about what defendants’ photos depicted.”
Must they? Must we know if someone’s liver was found, a question asked by Chester’s attorney?
The judge agreed with Bryant’s and Chester’s argument, and learning from personal experience, judges don’t always get it right.
Autopsy reports are available for a fee, but what’s the price paid for the attention that Bryant’s lawyer will bring to it?
USA Today’s report on the trial raised the same note of confusion as I have experienced.
The Coroner’s “testimony underscored a cruel irony about this case.” reported USA Today. “Bryant’s and Chester’s attorneys say their clients live in fear of these gruesome death photos reemerging one day and are haunted by the thought of that. But they also are eliciting graphic details from witnesses in open court about the photos and the condition of the bodies from the crash site — to the point that Bryant stayed out of the courtroom…”
Vanessa Bryant skipped the coroner’s testimony and then left the courtroom after her lawyer asked a Norwalk bartender if he had seen a photo of a young girl in any of the photos a sheriff’s trainee had shown to him. Everyone can sympathize and understand the emotional distress Vanessa has experienced, but is it really necessary for it to be self-inflicted?
Two other families settled with the County to presumably avoid this public spectacle, but Bryant and Chester declined. It can’t be easy for those two other families to avoid reports of what is being said now about the crash.
In her amended complaint, Bryant said, “Many social media users and Internet trolls have claimed to have seen photos of the victims’ remains, and their accounts are plausible given the number of individuals who took and transmitted improper photos, the ease with which cell phone photos are electronically shared and saved in cloud storage.”
If her legal team can locate these social media users and trolls who have claimed to have seen photos of the victims’ remains, then seemingly she would have made her case.
Whatever the end goal here, there is no excusing the first responders who behaved recklessly. And if it’s proven there is a history of such behavior, and it’s known the County has already tightened its policies, then what took so long? Shame on anyone who didn’t put dignity on lost loved ones over almost everything.
As for winning or losing in court, it is Vanessa’s legal team’s job in technical terms to prove the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department acted in a manner that shocks the conscience and offends the community’s sense of fair play and decency.
Maybe that’s what reading the autopsy to the jury is all about, the shock there in brutal detail as Bryant’s lawyer detailed how the crash impacted the body of Bryant’s daughter, which you won’t read here. As I wrote a week ago, I just don’t get the motivation for putting oneself through such emotional stress once again.
It’s already being reported that there is great twitter outrage out there over the release of autopsy details and a sketch of Kobe, but that was a choice made by Bryant’s wife and her legal team. And I repeatedly ask, why?
Maybe the explanation is in an Instagram displayed by Law & Crime that shows Vanessa driving on Oct. 31, 2021 while dressed in blonde hair, white fur coat, and red gloves as Cruella deVil from 101 Dalmatians.
She has spoken about the disrespect shown to her husband and daughter in death, and maybe the caption she wrote below her Halloween picture explains: “They say there are five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Well, I’d like to add one more . . . revenge.”
The judge ruled that her Instagram could not be shown to the jury.