Tennessee high court reverses Naomi Judd death investigation order

State's high court vacated a ruling that required police to publicly release investigation into country singer’s death

The late country singer Naomi Judd at the Hero Dog Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. AP
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Tennessee's high court has vacated a ruling that required police to publicly release their investigation into country singer Naomi Judd's death.

The state's supreme court did not rule on Thursday on whether the records can be released, but sent the case back to the lower court for another hearing.

Judd's family filed a petition in Williamson County Chancery Court in August, saying the police records contain video and audio interviews with relatives in the immediate aftermath of Judd's death.

Actress Ashley Judd and singer Wynonna Judd at a tribute for their mother, country music star Naomi Judd, in Nashville. AP

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 on August 31, denying their request for an injunction to keep the records private while they pursue their legal case.

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

In addition, the chancellor ruled that specific records in the police file are public records, including body camera footage taken inside of Judd’s home.

The Tennessee Supreme Court took issue with that part of the chancellor’s order. The high court said on Thursday that Mr 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 Mr Woodruff’s earlier ruling and sent the case back to the Chancery Court for a new hearing.

Judd died on April 30 at her home in Tennessee at the age of 76. Her daughter Ashley has previously said that her mother died by suicide and the family said she was lost to “the disease of mental illness”.

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Updated: September 30, 2022, 10:23 PM