*(Via LA Times) – When he took the stand Monday in the trial over photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Rafael Mejia said he didn’t know whether victims’ bodies had been visible in photos sent to him by another deputy.
That uncertainty didn’t jibe with an interview Mejia gave sheriff’s investigators two years ago, when he described in detail body parts he’d seen in the photos.
A second deputy followed Mejia on Monday and gave similarly conflicting testimony.
And the day also featured retired Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Brian Jordan, who claimed under oath that he did not remember being at the crash site at all. In an earlier deposition, Jordan recounted walking amid the crash scene.
The shifting stories and sudden amnesia were among several inconsistencies and contradictions that lawyers for Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, and Christopher Chester — whose wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, were killed in the Jan. 26, 2020, crash — seized on as the trial grinded through its fourth day.
Bryant and Chester have sued Los Angeles County in federal court, alleging the photos of the victims’ bodies that deputies and firefighters took and disseminated amounted to negligence and invasion of privacy.
“Time has passed,” Mejia told jurors when he was asked to explain several discrepancies in his testimony. “It’s not that I was intentionally trying to lie. It’s a lapse in memory.”
County lawyers have argued there were legitimate reasons for first responders to take and receive the photos, including to help determine the size of the crash site and decide what resources were needed. Bryant’s helicopter crashed into a Calabasas hillside in dense fog, killing the Lakers star, his daughter Gianna and others on their way to a youth basketball game in Thousand Oaks.
But an expert witness who testified last week for Bryant and Chester said the behavior of the deputies and Jordan were examples of a macabre, long-standing practice in law enforcement of taking and sharing gruesome photos from crime or accident scenes, especially when celebrities are involved.
Adam Bercovici, a retired lieutenant for the Los Angeles Police Department who now works as a consultant, testified that the so-called death books are a widespread problem. As a young LAPD officer, he said, a Polaroid photo of Nicole Brown Simpson’s body was shown to him.
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