Lawsuit to release Kurt Cobain death photos dismissed
SEATTLE — A King County judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force the release of photos showing the dead body of Seattle icon and rock legend Kurt Cobain.
While the Seattle Police Department released several images from the scene of Cobain’s 1994 suicide last year, some conspiracy theorists believe images showing his head and body were intentionally withheld because they would prove Cobain was actually murdered.
“There’s an overriding public policy issue here as to whether the Seattle Police Department and the King County Medical Examiner participated in murder by conducting a fraudulent death investigation,” said Richard Lee, the plaintiff in the case.
Lee has been trying to prove his theory for the past 21 years, even hosting and producing a public access show dedicated entirely to his belief that Cobain’s death was an elaborate conspiracy.
Attorneys for the city of Seattle sought to have Lee’s lawsuit thrown out on the basis that Lee failed to follow proper procedure when filing the suit.
Superior Court Judge Teresa Doyle granted the dismissal, but did not make a judgment on whether the photos could or should be released in the future. Her ruling does not prevent Lee from filing another public disclosure request for the images and other documents related to Cobain’s death.
“She made it clear that he can file future public records requests and the city will respond to those pursuant to the Public Records Act,” said John Schochet, of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
Schochet said the city would deny another such request from Lee, citing privacy laws that allow for certain exemptions.
Cobain, the lead singer of the American rock band Nirvana, was found dead at his home in Seattle on April 8, 1994. Forensic analysis determined he had committed suicide with a shotgun blast to his head three days earlier, on April 5.
Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, and their daughter, Frances Bean, both provided written statements to the court about the impact releasing such photos would have.
"I have never seen these graphic and disturbing images, nor do I ever want to,” Courtney Love wrote. “I cannot believe that there exists any genuine public interest which might be served by the public release of these images."
"I was less than two years old when my father died,” Frances wrote. “I have worked hard to know him from stories from friends and family, photographs, and from his art as the living person who was my parent. I do not want that image to be stained by the knowledge that these horrible photographs are public and I might be exposed to them."