The impromptu release of the photos last week by the Seattle Police Department has drawn a lawsuit from Richard Lee, a self-described investigative journalist best known for making groundless assertions that Cobain was murdered. Lee -- a 50-year-old Seattle man who has run for mayor several times and who hosted the public access show "Kurt Cobain Was Murdered" -- is representing himself in the suit.
In the lawsuit, Lee claims the department should have long ago released the photos, which were taken by a police photographer following Cobain's death on April 5, 1994, at his Lake Washington Boulevard home. The Aberdeen native's death, ruled a suicide, stunned Nirvana fans around the world and was a pivotal moment in Seattle's music scene.
A spokeswoman for the Seattle City Attorney's Office declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Late last month, the police press office released two dozen photos taken of the death scene. Though largely similar to other photos released years ago, the new images drew national attention as fans prepared to mark the anniversary of Cobain's death.
Speaking March 27, a police spokeswoman said a cold case detective reviewing the Cobain case file found several rolls of undeveloped film. The spokeswoman noted the images contained "nothing Earth-shattering," and that the long-closed investigation had not been reopened.
"Sometimes people believe what they read ... some of the disinformation from some of the books, that this was a conspiracy. That's completely inaccurate," said Detective Mike Ciesynski, who found the four rolls of undeveloped crime-scene photos. "It's a suicide. This is a closed case."
Lee now contends police should have released the photos when he requested all records related to Cobain's death shortly after the rocker's body was found. Acting as his own attorney, Lee claimed in the lawsuit that the Seattle Police Department refused to provide him the photos even after they were shared with several media outlets, including seattlepi.com.
"Lee has dealt with these SPD units many times in the past, and says that they are characteristically uncooperative, dilatory, and non-compliant with his requests for records and information," he said in the lawsuit.
Beyond the photos, Lee is requesting a trial on "broad issues" related to police disclosures in the Cobain case.
As yet, though, Lee has not asked that a judge impose the stiff civil penalties for non-disclosure included in Washington's public records law.
The state law requires that government agencies which fail to disclose releasable records pay $5 to $100 per day, per document, for the delay. Agencies have, in recent years, been ordered to pay six-figure sums for failing to respond to requests, in addition to thousands more in attorney's fees.
The city has yet to respond to Lee's lawsuit, which is filed in King County Superior Court.