The Marin County Sheriff’s office has defended its decision to give graphic details of Robin Williams’ death in a press conference on Tuesday.
As you will remember, Assistant Chief Deputy Coroner Lt. Keith Boyd described in graphic detail how the 63-year old actor hanged himself using a belt, prompting many appalled people to ask why he had to go into such lengths.
But in a statement released on Wednesday, Boyd explained that it is the law to describe deaths in detail and he had no choice but to obey.
The Sheriff’s Office understands how the release of the kind of information you heard yesterday may be viewed as disturbing by some, and as unnecessary by others, but under California law, all that information is considered ‘public information’ and we are precluded from denying access to it. These kinds of cases, whether they garner national attention or not, are very difficult for everyone involved.
Frankly, it would have been our personal preference to withhold a lot of what we disclosed to the press yesterday, but the California Public Records Act does not give us that kind of latitude. For the same reasons, we will likely be required to release to the media the 911 phone call we received from Mr. Williams’ residence and the fire dispatch tapes that resulted as well. To date, we have received a staggering number of formal Public Act Requests to do so and we are required by law to make those disclosures within 10 days.
While we continue working with our County Counsel’s Office to determine if there might be an exemption in the Public Records Act that would allow us to withhold those tapes, my past experience has been that there is not and we will once again have to do what the law requires us to do.