Tennessee’s high court on Thursday vacated a ruling that required police to publicly release their investigation into the death of country singer Naomi Judd.
The state Supreme Court did not rule on whether the records could be released, but sent the case back to a lower court for a second hearing. Judd’s family filed a petition in Williamson County Chancery Court in August, saying police records contain video and audio interviews with relatives immediately after Judd’s death.
Releasing such details would cause “significant shock and irreparable loss” to the family, the petition said. He argued that the police investigative files are covered by an exemption in the state’s public records law.
Williamson County Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff ruled against the Judd family on Aug. 31, denying their request for an injunction to keep the records private while they pursue their legal case. Woodruff found that the records “do not fall within any recognized exception to the Public Records Act”.
In addition, the chancellor ruled that certain records in the police file were public records, including body camera footage taken inside Judd’s home. But the Tennessee Supreme Court took issue with that part of the chancellor’s order. The high court said Thursday that Woodruff should not have decided which specific records were public and which were private without a full hearing on the matter.
The court vacated Woodruff’s prior judgment and remanded the case to the Chancery Court for a new trial.
Judd died on April 30 at his home in Tennessee at the age of 76. Her daughter Ashley Judd previously said that her mother had died by suicide, and the family said that she had succumbed to a “mental illness”.