Coroner rules Lawrence Phillips' death a suicide, reveals new details
Five months after Lawrence Phillips was found unresponsive in a jail cell, the official coroner's report is finally out.
According to the 18-page Kern County coroner's report that officially calls the death a suicide, Phillips hung himself with a bedsheet from a TV shelf in his California jail cell. He was found hanging in a seated position, because the shelf was so close to the floor, and had a note reading "Do Not Resuscitate" taped to his chest.
The former Nebraska star and ex-NFL player was serving a seven-year sentence for felony assault and also was facing charges for the murder of his former cellmate when he died.
His family disputed the initial findings and has pushed for an independent investigation, but that has stalled as they waited on the official report, according to the Omaha World-Herald, which received a copy of the document.
"On behalf of the family, we have been waiting on this report," lawyer Dan Chamberlain told the Herald.
The family's key concern is a second note that was found in Phillips' sock, along with a photo of him with a child.
Phillips' mother and two attorneys who reviewed the note say it was not his handwriting, and the message it contained was troubling.
From that report:
Whitten and Campbell said the note had writing on both sides.
One side "said, and this to the best of my recollection, 'Did you hear the one about the football player who hung himself from the TV mount in his cell?' " Campbell told USA TODAY Sports. "And where it said football player, it looked like somebody after the fact put the letter 'X' before 'football,' so it said 'X-football player.' "
Whitten described the other side as containing a quote or racist joke.
"It was something like, 'What's the black person do?' And it ended with like, 'They should just die,' '' Whitten said. "It was kind of dark, but it could have pertained to the attitude of how he was being treated (in prison)."
The toxicology report from the coroner's office found no substances in Phillips' system outside of caffeine. It described him as "extremely muscular" and said that there were no outward signs of a physical struggle, noting only two small superficial marks on his back.