Naomi Judd’s family drops lawsuit barring release of singer’s last moments – The Guardian US

naomi-judd’s-family-drops-lawsuit-barring-release-of-singer’s-last-moments-–-the-guardian-us

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The family of Naomi Judd is dropping a lawsuit that it filed in an attempt to block the public release of police-captured images showing the Grammy-winning country musician dying slowly after she shot herself earlier this year.

In a statement obtained by the Guardian, representatives of Judd’s family – which includes the actor Ashley Judd – said they are instead going to focus on supporting legislation in their home state of Tennessee which would clarify that such graphic materials from investigations into suicides and other non-criminal matters would be barred from being released as public records.

“Those who are victims of losing a loved one to suicide shouldn’t be re-victimized again,” read the statement on Monday from the Judd family, which has spoken to Tennessee state senator Jack Johnson about the legislation in question.

Having a lengthy history of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, Naomi Judd shot herself in the head with a gun at her home near Nashville during the morning of 30 April, authorities have said.

Ashley Judd found her mother badly wounded near both the gun and what appeared to be a suicide note, and the actor immediately called police for help. Naomi Judd was still alive as officers arrived at her home, and relatives sat with her as police spoke with everyone there and tried to figure out why the 76-year-old family matriarch had done what she did.

The Judds have said they did not realize at the time that footage recorded by the responding officers’ body-worn cameras could eventually be publicly available. And after Naomi Judd was pronounced dead and her loved ones grieved, her family’s attorney – Michael Shipman – found a provision in state law that he contended should have blocked the release of the footage to various media outlets which requested it under public records statutes.

But local county judge Joseph Woodruff ruled against a lawsuit from the Judds which cited their right to privacy in arguing against the release of video and audio interviews by police of the late singer’s loved ones in the immediate aftermath of her killing herself, along with images of the scene at her home that day.

The Judd family’s legal team appealed, saying they didn’t receive the full hearing to which they were entitled before Woodruff ruled against them. And the state supreme court ultimately gave the Judds a partial legal victory, determining that the family was entitled to a full hearing at the county courthouse before their lawsuit was ruled on.

The Judds unsuccessfully sought to remove Woodruff as the judge from the case at that point. Then, media outlets withdrew their request for images of Naomi Judd on the day of her death. And Johnson – the state senator – proposed a bill that would clarify that state law already allowed authorities to withhold certain records from investigations into cases that by definition aren’t crimes, like Naomi Judd’s death.

The singer’s family as a result moved to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit on Monday and are shifting their focus to supporting Johnson’s bill, saying they hope their “emotionally painful, tragic episode” shields people who may one day endure something similar from “public spectacle”.

The Tennessee state general assembly is set to consider Johnson’s proposal during its next legislative session, which is set to start 10 January.

The local county’s government may wait until learning the fate of Johnson’s bill before determining whether it believes the records in the Naomi Judd case are publicly releasable. Despite Monday’s voluntary dismissal, the Judd family could pursue another legal action if they feel any potential release of records violates their rights.

Before becoming a country music legend, Naomi Judd was born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky. She worked as a nurse when she and Wynonna began to sing together, attracting a devoted following through unique harmonies that blended acoustic music, bluegrass and blues.

Naomi and Wynonna Judd’s act racked up 14 No 1 hits and five Grammy wins over nearly three decades performing, setting themselves apart by singing about family, marriage and fidelity. Yet in 1991, at the peak of her group’s popularity, Naomi Judd was diagnosed with hepatitis. She had to stop performing, and her mental state deteriorated significantly, she has previously said.

The singer died a day before she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Her survivors, besides her daughters, included her husband, Larry Strickland, once a backing singer for Elvis Presley.

  • In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 and online chat is also available. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] or [email protected] In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

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