Naomi Judd’s Death Investigation Order Overturned by Tennessee Supreme Court

Naomi Judd’s Death Investigation Order Overturned by Tennessee Supreme Court
Naomi Judd attends her induction into the Kentucky Legends Hall of Fame at Down One Bourbon Bar in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 12, 2013. (Stephen Cohen/Getty Images)

Tennessee’s Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a ruling that mandated law enforcement officials to release their investigation of Naomi Judd’s death publicly.

The state’s highest court remanded the case back to the lower court for one more hearing and didn’t rule on whether the records can be released, making it an unofficial ruling.

Judd’s family filed a petition in Williamson County Chancery Court in August, pledging for the investigation report to be sealed. The family said police data contain video and audio interviews with relatives in the immediate aftermath of Judd’s death.

Releasing such details would inflict “significant trauma and irreparable harm” on the family, the petition said. It argued that the police investigative files are covered by an exemption to the state’s public records law.

Williamson County Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff ruled against the Judd family in late August.

The records “do not appear to fall within any recognized exception to the Public Records Act,” Woodruff found.

Woodruff also ruled that specific parts of the police documents are public records, including body camera footage taken inside Judd’s home. The Tennessee Supreme Court took issue with that part of the chancellor’s order. The high court said on Thursday that Woodruff should not have ruled on which specific records are public and which are private without a full hearing on the issue.

The court vacated Woodruff’s earlier ruling and sent the case back to the Chancery Court for a new hearing.

Judd died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in late April, an autopsy report released in August revealed, confirming what Ashley Judd, the 76-year-old country music superstar’s daughter, disclosed with “Good Morning America” in mid-May.

Ashley Judd arrives
Ashley Judd arrives at the 90th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif., on March 4, 2018. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

The younger Judd revealed that her family agreed to put her in charge of speaking up publicly about her late mother’s suicide in an effort to shed light on mental illness and before it gets public in some other way after the autopsy is released.

“I’m tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live,” Ashley told the show.

“I’ve thought about it so much because once I say it, it cannot be unsaid. And so, because we don’t want it to be a part of the gossip economy, I will share with you that she used a weapon,” she said. “My mother used a firearm.”

Ashley also disclosed that she was the one who found her mother’s body while visiting her home in Tennessee, adding that the experience has left her with both grief and trauma.

Judd died the day before she and her daughter, Wynonna, were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Ashley, Naomi, and Wynonna Judd
Ashley (L), Naomi (C), and Wynonna Judd (R) at the premiere and after-party for “Lilo & Stitch” at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on June 16, 2002. (Kevin Winter/ImageDirect)

The Kentucky-born singer, together with Wynonna, won five Grammy awards as the country duo “The Judds.” Their songs include “Had a Dream (For the Heart),” and” and “Have Mercy.”

Ashley is an actor known for her roles in movies such as “Double Jeopardy,” “Heat,” and “Divergent.”

If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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