Vanessa Bryant wants answers about the alleged practice of ‘death books’ after deputies were accused of sharing grisly photos of Kobe’s helicopter crash, records show

Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine Bryant
Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Laine Bryant. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
  • Vanessa Bryant is seeking information on alleged “death books,” new court documents said.
  • Her legal team filed a motion requesting documents related to crime-scene photos taken by officers.
  • LASD deputies were accused of taking photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Vanessa Bryant requested that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County release “all documents and communications” since 2016 related to alleged law-enforcement “death books” containing photos of crime scenes, court documents showed on Tuesday.

The motion to compel documents filed on Tuesday is part of Bryant’s legal fight after four sheriff’s deputies were accused of taking and sharing photos of the gruesome crash site where her husband, Kobe Bryant; her daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant; and seven others died in January 2020. LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the photos have been deleted and the deputies are under investigation.

The reference to “death books” was just one part of a 42-page motion from Bryant’s attorney to obtain more documents; it contains contentions from both the plaintiff’s side and the defense’s about the requested information.

In March 2020, Villanueva mentioned the existence of “death books,” saying there are officers who “have photos from crime scenes throughout their careers.”

“That’s a macabre idea, but some do that,” he told reporters, adding that “this has been a problem in law enforcement across the nation, probably across the world.”

“It’s been a problem ever since they invented the Polaroid,” Villanueva said. He added, “Because it just makes it so much easier.”

Bryant’s attorney is requesting “all documents and communications from January 1, 2016, to the present relating to Department employees personally keeping photos of human remains they encounter while on duty” from LASD, and said the department has agreed “to search only for complaints of Department personnel keeping remains photos for a non-law-enforcement or non-investigatory purpose from 2015 to 2019.”

But the defense rejected the need for all documents and communications. Bryant’s “purported justification for this request is an offhand comment made by Sheriff Villanueva regarding death books and law enforcement generally,” the defense said in the filing. “Contrary to Plaintiff’s assumptions, Sheriff Villanueva was not implying that there was a widespread practice of taking or maintaining improper photographs within LASD, as opposed to nationwide.”

“Plaintiff cannot rely on speculation to justify forcing Defendants to undertake an untenable and disproportionate search that is fundamentally unrelated to the claims in this case,” the defense said, citing the contentions of the county and department in the motion.

The county has produced over 30,000 pages of documents to Bryant, court documents said, which it said are “responsive to the requests which are the subject of this Motion.”

Representatives from LASD and Bryant’s legal team did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Bryant filed a civil suit against LASD, the county, the Los Angeles Fire Department, and others in May 2020, saying the deputies accused of sharing the photos were liable for “negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of her right to privacy,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In March of this year, a judge ruled in favor of Bryant’s request to obtain the names of the deputies accused of sharing graphic photos of the helicopter crash. Her attorney cited that example in Tuesday’s filing, saying, “This Court should reject Defendants’ baseless objections once again and grant Mrs. Bryant’s motion to compel.”