Many people, including some SFist readers, reacted strongly to the level of detail that was given in the press conference Tuesday with regard to Robin Williams' cause of death, saying that the Marin County Sheriff's Department did not need to describe the state of the body quite so completely. There is something called the "contagion effect" in which those who might be having suicidal thoughts are influenced, or encouraged, by descriptions of others' suicides, and mental health professionals in particular criticized the Sheriff's Department for the way the presented the details, as KRON4 reports. Sheriff’s Liuetenant Keith Boyd defended the presentation Wednesday, saying "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."
Though it was widely speculated on Monday, due to the description of death by asphyxia, that Williams had hanged himself, confirmation of this along with some gruesome details about the exact circumstances of the hanging that don't need repeating did not come until Tuesday morning. News outlets had already confirmed the cause of death by locating the police-scanner audio, however the Marin County Sheriffs proceeded to go into great detail at an 11 a.m. press conference on Monday, apparently believing that they had to.
And what's worse, they're saying that the Public Records Act will require them to release audio from the 911 call and fire dispatch tapes well.
Per KRON 4:
“Coroners are not required to provide details by press conference,” said Terry Francke, head of open government group Californians Aware. But he said the Marin County Sheriff’s Department chose to disseminate as much information as quickly possible at one time rather than leak piecemeal. Some three dozen television cameras and twice as many reporters from around the globe crowded the news conference outside the sheriff’s offices Tuesday morning.
“While the impact of the details on some people’s mourning of Mr. Williams’ passing may have been jarring, keeping what was known under wraps would have added needless speculation if not suspicion to the general shock,” Francke said.