The officials investigating the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams have defended their decision to release the details of his apparent suicide, citing the California Public Records Act.
Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd, the assistant chief deputy coroner who led a press conference about the ongoing investigation on Tuesday, said in an email to Fox News on Wednesday that he was required by law to inform the public of Williams’ decision to hang himself.
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“These kinds of cases, whether they garner national attention or not, are very difficult for everyone involved,” Boyd said. “Frankly, it would have been our personal preference to withhold a lot of what we disclosed to the press, but the California Public Records Act does not give us that kind of latitude.”
Boyd revealed that Williams was found “clothed in a seated position, unresponsive, and with a belt secured around his neck with the other end of the belt wedged between the closed closet door and door frame.”
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The official added: “The inside of Mr. Williams’ left wrist had several acute superficial
transverse cuts. A pocket knife with a closed blade was located in close proximity to Mr. Williams. The pocket knife was examined and dry red material was located on the blade which appeared consistent to dried blood.”
Some have criticized the decision to release the details of Williams’ death, in fear that it may encourage others to end their lives in the same manner.
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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, for example, told his listeners on Tuesday that he feared the media coverage could inspire copycat suicides “by people seeking the same kind of fame.”
For others concerned simply about privacy for the Williams family, Boyd said the sheriff’s office is discussing possible exemptions to the Public Records Act with the country’s attorney in an effort to withhold the “distraught” 911 call that reported Williams’ death.
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Boyd said, however, that it is likely the department will have to release the call and fire dispatch tapes within 10 days, as required by law.