Details of Robin Williams’ death generate backlash on social media

Tourists walk past the Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard, where the marquee pays tribute to Robin Williams.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Amid the pictures and news clips shared about Robin Williams on social media Tuesday following his death, a wave of criticism emerged after a Marin County sheriff’s official revealed, in detail, how the actor’s body was found.

At a news conference, Marin County Assistant Deputy Chief Coroner Lt. Keith Boyd revealed that Williams, 63, used a belt to asphyxiate himself and may have also tried to cut his wrists with a pocket knife.

He then went on to reveal that rigor mortis had already set in by the time Williams’ personal assistant discovered the body in a slightly elevated position.

While the level of detail Boyd presented is routinely available on a coroner’s report for any member of the public to view upon request, it’s not often that authorities discuss them in front of cameras and a podium capped with microphones. The news conference was broadcast on several TV stations and live-tweeted by members of the media, all of which drew the ire of the public.


“I really wish they didn’t release the details of how Robin Williams was found. People will be focusing on that, instead of the person he was,” wrote twitter user Lisa.

Brian White, who identifies himself as a digital and broadcast news reporter in Arizona, said there was nothing to gain from the new information.

“I deliberately didn’t have any sound from the Marin County presser because there’s no news value in the salacious details of Williams’ death,” he tweeted.

Michael van Poppel, who runs a breaking news website, tweeted that Williams’ publicist had no comment to the details revealed in the conference and said describing the actor’s death as a suicide should suffice.

“Shorter sheriff’s office press conference: Too much information,” he tweeted. He then followed that up with: “There’s no need to report all the intimate details of Robin Williams’ death. Unless there had been doubts, ‘suicide’ is more than enough.”

Writer Mark Masek, who has written about Hollywood deaths and runs a cemetery guide website, suggested that Boyd was releasing details that were inevitably going to come out anyway.

“The public expects it, so the media demands it. Or some sleazy website will pay for it, and others will have to repeat it,” he tweeted.

Boyd did tell reporters that the department is taking precautions to keep other details of Williams’ death private. The autopsy was performed in Napa County, where a government-run facility operates.


In Marin County, authorities use a private company for its autopsies, Boyd said. The department chose to go to Napa to ensure no photos or details would be leaked, he said.

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