Judge weighs lawsuit seeking Kurt Cobain's death-scene photos

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 31, 2015 5:10 PM

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Washington state judge should dismiss a lawsuit seeking photos from the death scene of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain because public-disclosure laws do not apply and the journalist who wants them violated legal procedures, Seattle's attorney will argue on Friday.

Independent journalist Richard Lee has sued the city and its police department to try to force the release of the pictures taken by law-enforcement officials after Cobain killed himself in 1994, a spokesman for Seattle attorney Pete Holmes said.

The photos show his entire body and the damage to his head from a shotgun blast, according to a declaration filed last week by Cobain's wife, the musician Courtney Love, seeking to block the release.

The city will ask Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle to dismiss the case on procedural grounds during a hearing later on Friday, said the spokesman, John Schochet.

Lawyers for the city will say Lee failed to properly serve them with a copy of his lawsuit, Schochet added, and also that his request should be denied because the graphic photos are exempt from public records disclosure laws.

Cobain, who rose to fame in 1991 leading Nirvana and popularized the grunge rock movement, was 27 when he shot himself with a shotgun at his Seattle home on April 5, 1994. His body was not found for three days.

His death returned to the headlines last year when police said they found rolls of undeveloped film while preparing for renewed media attention ahead of the 20th anniversary of Cobain's suicide.

Lee, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, has produced a public-access television show called "Kurt Cobain Was Murdered," according to a website cataloging the show.

Schochet said the journalist apparently believes the photos will prove the rocker did not take his own life.

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Love wrote in her declaration that she has never seen the photos.

"Certainly, public disclosure would reopen all my old wounds, and cause me and my family permanent, indeed, endless and needless, pain and suffering, and would be a gross violation of our privacy interests," Love wrote.

The couple's daughter, Frances Cobain, echoed those sentiments and wrote separately that the release of the photos would put her in danger, describing how she has received death threats and privacy invasions from people obsessed with her late father.

"Releasing these photographs into the public domain would encourage more disturbed stalkers and fanatical threats," she wrote.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)