Ashley Judd Explains Why She’s Trying to Block the Release of an Investigative Report on Naomi Judd’s Death

In a commentary published in the New York Times, Ashley Judd explains why she has filed a petition attempting to block the release of a report on the death of her mother, Naomi Judd — saying that “the horror” of the experience “will only worsen if the details surrounding her death are disclosed by the Tennessee law that generally allows police reports, including family interviews, from closed investigations to be made public.”

In the essay, Judd reveals that her mother — who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at her home on April 30 — was still alive at the time police arrived, and contends that the barrage of questioning kept her from attending to her mother in some of her final moments. Most relevant to her objection to the report, though, is that she says family members revealed many personal things in the heat of interrogation without any thought as to how those details would forever become part of the public record.

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“I felt cornered and powerless as law enforcement officers began questioning me while the last of my mother’s life was fading,” Judd writes. “I wanted to be comforting her, telling her how she was about to see her daddy and younger brother as she ‘went away home,’ as we say in Appalachia. Instead, without it being indicated I had any choices about when, where and how to participate, I began a series of interviews that felt mandatory and imposed on me that drew me away from the precious end of my mother’s life. And at a time when we ourselves were trying desperately to decode what might have prompted her to take her life on that day, we each shared everything we could think of about Mom, her mental illness and its agonizing history.”

Judd adds that she does not blame the law enforcement officials on the scene for following standard procedure in the interviewing that occurred — but that those procedures are “terrible” and “outdated.” “The men who were present left us feeling stripped of any sensitive boundary, interrogated and, in my case, as if I was a possible suspect in my mother’s suicide,” she writes.

She says that her family petitioned the courts in early August to stop release 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 that what we shared so freely that day could enter the public domain. This profoundly intimate personal and medical information does not belong in the press, on the internet or anywhere except in our memories.”

Judd concedes that she doesn’t have a good sense of whether the court will agree with “our belief that what we said and did in the immediate aftermath of Naomi’s death should remain in the private domain — just as it should for all families facing such devastation. I don’t know that we’ll be able to get the privacy we deserve. We are waiting with taut nerves for the courts to decide. I do know that we’re not alone. We feel deep compassion for Vanessa Bryant and all families that have had to endure the anguish of a leaked or legal public release of the most intimate, raw details surrounding a death.”

The actress expresses her opposition to the report’s on two fronts: a desire to block the sensitive information that family members revealed to investigators under pressure, and also details of the exact nature of Naomi Judd’s fatal wounds and suffering.

“Some know her as a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, others as the warmest person they ever sat next to on an airplane. I know her as my mama, who put salt and pepper shakers beside each place setting for our family suppers and relished talking about subjects as diverse as paleoanthropology and neuroscience. She should be remembered for how she lived, which was with goofy humor, glory onstage and unfailing kindness off it — not for the private details of how she suffered when she died.”

Read Judd’s entire Times essay here.

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