Naomi Judd died by suicide on April 30. Since then, her family has been mourning while the world watches. Earlier this month, Ashley and Wynonna Judd and their stepfather Larry Strickland petitioned the court to keep some details of the country icon’s death private. More specifically, they hoped to keep investigative files, including audio and video recordings and photos surrounding Naomi’s death sealed.
The Judd family had to petition the court to seal those records because many states have laws that allow police records from closed cases to become public knowledge. Ashley Judd has been vocal about the need for legislative reform on this topic.
In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Ashley Judd wrote, “I could not help [Naomi]. I can, however, do something about how she is remembered.” Judd went on to say that her mother’s death taught her about the massive invasion of privacy that comes with having a loved one die by suicide. She intends to make that invasion of privacy “a personal as well as a legal goal.”
“Family members who have lost a loved one are often revictimized by laws that can expose their most private moments to the public,” Judd wrote before talking about her experience with law enforcement after her mother’s death.
Ashely Judd Shares Her Experience
In the op-ed, Ashely Judd talked about the moments just after her mother’s death. Law enforcement entered the home and began to investigate the scene. That investigation included multiple interviews with the shocked and grieving family. “I gushed answers to the many probing questions directed at me in the four interviews the police insisted I do on the very day my mother died – questions I would have never answered on any other day,” she said of the experience. Judd went on to say that she understands that officers on the scene were just following protocol but hopes that protocol will change in the future.
These interviews, Ashley Judd said, are why they filed the petition. They hope to “prevent the public disclosure of the investigative file, including interviews the police conducted with us at a time when we were at our most vulnerable and least able to grasp what we shared that day so freely could enter the public domain,” Judd wrote. She added that they’re asking for this privacy not because they have anything to hide. Instead, “We ask because privacy in death is a death with dignity. And for those left behind, privacy avoids heaping further harm upon a family…”
A Need for New Laws
Currently, Ashley Judd and her family don’t know if the court will grant them their privacy. They’re waiting “with taut nerves” to hear the court’s decision. This is why Ashley Judd believes that laws regarding the dissemination of police reports need to change. Additionally, she hopes that law enforcement protocol in dealing with suicides and other mental health emergencies will improve.
About that need for change, Judd wrote, “I hope that leaders in Washington and in the state capitals will provide some basic protections for those involved in the police response to mental health emergencies. Those emergencies are tragedies, not grist for the public spectacle.”