Ashley Judd is speaking out on privacy following her mother’s untimely passing.
Her mother, country legend Naomi Judd tragically died by suicide back in April of this year, and Ashley was actually the one to discover her. We cannot imagine. Now, after some of the initial shock has subsided, the Double Jeopardy star is calling on Tennessee lawmakers to reform privacy laws surrounding death investigations as she’s realized too much of her trauma has become public — and is putting her through hell all over again.
Last month, Ashley asked a judge to seal police reports related to Naomi’s death, including recordings produced throughout the investigation. She cited the “significant trauma and irreparable harm” the release of the information would bring to the family.
In an op-ed published through the New York Times on Wednesday, Ashley wrote about her experience with law enforcement and investigators over the last several months — and her desire for the sensitive information to be sealed from the public:
“As my family and I continue to mourn our loss, the rampant and cruel misinformation that has spread about her death, and about our relationships with her, stalks my days. The horror of it 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.”
“Family members who have lost a loved one are often revictimized by laws that can expose their most private moments to the public. In the immediate aftermath of a life-altering tragedy, when we are in a state of acute shock, trauma, panic and distress, the authorities show up to talk to us. Because many of us are socially conditioned to cooperate with law enforcement, we are utterly unguarded in what we say.”
What an interesting insight. It brings to mind, of course, the case of Vanessa Bryant after first responders took photos of her family’s bodies. The law did side with her in the end. But what about the information grieving family members give freely? That could also hurt to see later on. Ashley added:
“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 never have answered on any other day and questions about which I never thought to ask my own questions, including: Is your body camera on? Am I being audio recorded again? Where and how will what I am sharing be stored, used and made available to the public?”
What she’s saying makes perfect sense. In the moment you just want to provide authorities with everything you know to help. But why is that ever made available? Maybe we should have more laws protecting our privacy, especially in moments of tragedy.
She remembers feeling “cornered and powerless” while being interviewed by officers — though she doesn’t hold it against them specifically:
“I want to be clear that the police were simply following terrible, outdated interview procedures and methods of interacting with family members who are in shock or trauma and that the individuals in my mother’s bedroom that harrowing day were not bad or wrong. I assume they did as they were taught. It is now well known that law enforcement personnel should be trained in how to respond to and investigate cases involving trauma, but 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. Though I acknowledge the need for law enforcement to investigate a sudden violent death by suicide, there is absolutely no compelling public interest in the case of my mother to justify releasing the videos, images and family interviews that were done in the course of that investigation.”
She then asserted:
“This profoundly intimate personal and medical information does not belong in the press, on the internet or anywhere except in our memories. We have asked the court to not release these documents not because we have secrets. We have always been an uncannily open family, which explains part of the public’s love for my mother. Folks identified with her honesty about her mistakes, admired her for her ability to survive hardship and delighted in her improbable stardom. We ask because privacy in death is a death with more dignity. And for those left behind, privacy avoids heaping further harm upon a family that is already permanently and painfully altered.”
As of now, the Judd family is awaiting the court’s decision on whether or not the information will be sealed or released to the public.
We hope Ashely can win this uphill legal battle with the state of Tennessee to provide herself and the Judd family with a bit of peace. Let us know your thoughts in the comments (below).