- In a final pre-trial hearing, Vanessa Bryant and Los Angeles County both won the courtroom.
- Bryant will be able to call an expert witness to testify about what he calls the “widespread” practice of “death books”.
- Los Angeles County will not have to share the internal messages they sent to those accused of taking and sharing photos of the accident.
Vanessa Bryant and Los Angeles County scored victories Friday, at a pre-trial hearing by Bryant against the county over accusations that Los Angeles County personnel took and shared photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna Bryant and seven others.
Lawyers representing Vanessa Bryant will be allowed to subpoena a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who claims to have seen law enforcement’s “death books,” but was restricted by the judge regarding internal disciplinary letters in Los Angeles County. It can be indicated to prove their case that the photos were shared among the employees.
Adam Berkowici, the former police officer whom Bryant’s team will call the podium, wrote in court filings that he had been personally shown photographs of dead victims, often recorded as “death books,” and argued that “Ghoulish souvenirs” were a cultural issue within the app. The law is in Southern California since Polaroid cameras were used.
On Friday, at a pretrial conference ahead of the August 10 trial date, Judge John Walter said Berkowici’s testimony would be relevant to the case — a win for Bryant.
In September 2020, Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Police Department, the county fire department, the county as a whole, and eight officers following reports that first responders Take and share photos of the crash site in January 2020.
Her case is seeking punitive damages from county defendants accused of taking and sharing photos of the crash site. Bryant is suing the county for negligence, emotional distress and breach of privacy lawsuits as well as federal claims relating to the constitutional right to photographs of her deceased loved ones and the practices of the Los Angeles County Agency that led to the allegations of taking and publishing the photographs.
In court documents filed in January, Bercovici wrote that as a longtime member of the Los Angeles Police Department, he “personally investigated more than a hundred employee-related complaints.”
“One particularly memorable example of this behavior came in 1994, when I was hired as a supervisor in CRASH’s Western Operations Office, and I was shown a Polaroid picture of the deceased Nicole Brown Simpson,” Berkowicchi said in the affidavits. By cutting her throat, almost to the point of cutting her head.”
March 2020 Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted to having “death books” during His initial comments after, after news Of the allegedly inappropriate photos she came out saying, “That’s a horrible idea, but some do.”
At the hearing, Walter told the parties that Berkowicchi could not testify or provide an opinion on whether the LA County Agency’s investigations “deviated from basic standards,” because he was only involved in the LAPD investigations.
In a win for the county, Walter added that Bryant’s team would not be allowed to submit purported letters of intent sent by Deputy Fire Chief William McCloud to employees who were disciplined after they were accused of taking photographs of human remains in the accident. The site, arguing that the messages were “corrective actions”.
With five to six hundred pieces of evidence presented before trial, Walter told the court he wanted to avoid a “mini-trial” focused on the county’s internal investigation, and wanted to focus on whether inappropriate photographs were taken and shared — and whether they still existed.