February 20, 2018

Obama's Response to Sandy Hook Compared to Trump's Response to Stoneman Douglas

George's Note: Below the Joshua Dubois account of Obama's visit to Sandy Hook, are links to Trump's response to Stoneman Douglas.   

Joshua Dubois: What the President secretly did at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Below is an excerpt from The President’s Devotional by Joshua Dubois, the former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He’s recounting events that occurred Sunday, December 16, 2012 — two days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members. Dubois had gotten word the day before that the President wanted to meet with the families of the victims:
I left early to help the advance team—the hardworking folks who handle logistics for every event—set things up, and I arrived at the local high school where the meetings and memorial service would take place. We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn’t know how to prepare; it was the best we could think of.
The families came in and gathered together, room by room. Many struggled to offer a weak smile when we whispered, “The president will be here soon.” A few were visibly angry—so understandable that it barely needs to be said—and were looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Mostly they sat in silence.
I went downstairs to greet President Obama when he arrived, and I provided an overview of the situation. “Two families per classroom . . . The first is . . . and their child was . . . The second is . . . and their child was . . . We’ll tell you the rest as you go.”
The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget.
Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.
And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer.
The staff did the preparation work, but the comfort and healing were all on President Obama. I remember worrying about the toll it was taking on him. And of course, even a president’s comfort was woefully inadequate for these families in the face of this particularly unspeakable loss. But it became some small measure of love, on a weekend when evil reigned.
Trump's Response:
https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/18/politics/donald-trump-florida-shooting-twitter/index.html" target="_blank"

January 29, 2018

Florida OKs $4.5 million payout for brutal prison shower death of Darren Rainey

George's Note: I'm elated for Darren Rainey's family that they received some measure of justice in the form of this settlement. However, I'm deeply disturbed that guards Clarke and Thompson essentially got away with murder. They should be in prison.

In the article is a quote that I take great exception to:

Martha Harbin, director of external relations for Corizon, said: “Although every defense lawyer in the case knew Corizon had no liability for Mr. Rainey’s death, Corizon contributed $100,000 to the settlement in order to bring the case to a conclusion. Later, an FDOC representative thanked Corizon for making a contribution of any kind.”

This assertion is absurd. Corizon had culpable liability for Rainey's scalding death in that Corizon's administrator and my supervisor, Dr. Perez (named in New Yorker article Madness), not only knew about abuses but took no corrective action. Furthermore, Corizon offered no training, guidance or protocols for recognizing all forms of abuse and how to report it. Their position has always been, "look the other way, don't rock the boat, just go along with the program."

Thanking Corizon for their pitiful "contribution" is pathetic in the extreme. This is a vile corporation that puts profit ahead of medical treatment for patients and the safety of psychiatric patients. Nearly 700 malpractice lawsuits have been filed against Corizon.

Florida OKs $4.5 million payout for brutal prison shower death of Darren Rainey

BY JULIE K. BROWN January 26, 2018

The family of Darren Rainey, the 50-year-old schizophrenic inmate whose barbaric shower death led to sweeping reforms in the Florida prison system, has settled a civil rights lawsuit against the state of Florida and others for $4.5 million, the Miami Herald has learned.

The deal comes nearly six years after Rainey's death, which was all but ignored by authorities until 2014 — when the Miami Herald wrote about it as part of a three-year investigation into the abuse and suspicious deaths of inmates in the Florida Department of Corrections.

It also comes as Florida is set to open a new residential prison treatment facility next month for state prison inmates with mental illnesses. The program is one of a number of initiatives for inmates with disabilities begun since the Herald's series.
The shower in the mental health unit at Dade Correctional Institution stripped the skin off of Darren Rainey's body after he collapsed.

Rainey's daughter, brother and sister filed the civil lawsuit against the state; Corizon, the Department of Corrections' former mental health contractor; Jerry Cummings, the former warden at Dade Correctional Institution; and two former corrections officers, Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson. It charged that they had subjected Rainey to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of his constitutional rights.

"I'm thankful for the family appears to have reached a resolution. However, it is not finalized at this moment, so I am reserving any further comment," Milton Grimes, the Rainey family attorney, said on Thursday.

Inmate Harold Hempstead wrote to the Miami-Dade state attorney and other law enforcement offices, describing what had happened to Darren Rainey. He was ignored until his story was reported in the Miami Herald. He has been moved to a prison in another state for his own protection.

Harold Hempstead, the whistleblower who alerted the Herald to Rainey's death, said he is grateful that the case not only led to changes in Florida, but prompted other states to rethink the way they treat and house inmates with disabilities. 

"Even though it was a really bad and evil thing, when I look back and see the good that came as a result of attention to the problems in the prison system, I'm happy. It's sad that someone had to die to make change happen. But they say God has a way of bringing good out of evil," said Hempstead, who is now assigned to a prison out of state for his protection.

On June 23, 2012, Rainey was locked in a blistering hot shower by corrections officers who had specially rigged it to punish inmates who misbehaved in the prison's mental health unit, the Herald found. The temperature controls were in another room.

A video from inside Dade Correctional Institution, which was released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office on March 17, 2017, shows prison guards removing inmate Darren Rainey from his cell. 

Rainey screamed and begged to be let out of the steaming stall for nearly two hours until he finally collapsed and died, his skin peeling off his body, the Herald found.

Dade CI's guards also used other forms of torture: dousing prisoners with buckets of chemicals, over-medicating them, forcing them to fight each other and starving them. A group of officers at the prison that served inmates empty food trays was known as the "diet squad."

For more than a year afterward, Hempstead, an orderly at the prison, sent letters to Miami-Dade homicide detectives, the county medical examiner, the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle and the prison system's inspector general, telling them that the guards at the prison had killed Rainey and were harming other inmates. But no action was taken.

Authorities, facing public pressure after the Herald stories, finally reopened the case. The Department of Corrections forced the warden and assistant warden out, the head of the agency stepped down and dozens of officers accused of abusing inmates across the state were fired or forced to retire.

Darren Rainey was not the first prisoner to be placed in the shower that killed him. Here are the recorded statements of two who talked with investigators about the experience.

Two inmates talk about rigged shower at Dade Correctional

Florida lawmakers and the governor then undertook a number of statewide reforms in the treatment and housing of inmates with mental illnesses and other disabilities. Next month, a new residential mental health treatment center is scheduled to open at Wakulla Correctional Institution, located in the Panhandle.

Rainey, who grew up in Tampa, was serving a two-year sentence for drug possession and had been at Dade for about four months at the time of his death. He had reportedly soiled himself in his cell and refused to clean himself up, angering the guards, who forced him into the shower. 

The officers claimed they checked on Rainey every half an hour and that he was fine.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle chose not to charge corrections officers in the death of Darren Rainey. An inmate's letters to her office stating that Rainey was locked in the shower and begged to be let out, only to be mocked, were ignored.

In March 2017, Fernández Rundle issued a final report on the case, announcing her decision not to file charges. She pointed to the autopsy results, which concluded that his skin damage was not caused by burns, and her contention that many of the witnesses, including Hempstead, were not consistent in their statements.

A Miami Herald analysis of her investigation, however, showed that the detectives failed to pursue key lines of questioning and ignored or downplayed leads provided by credible witnesses, such as medical personnel and corrections officers.

Rainey's death nevertheless led to the growth of an active prison reform movement by human rights groups, among them a local group called SPAN (Stop Prison Abuse Now). Its activists have held protests and pressured the state for changes.

Disability Rights Florida, the Florida Justice Institute, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU of Florida — along with many civil rights attorneys around the state — spearheaded a call for the more humane treatment of Florida's 99,000 inmates.

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to investigate Rainey's case. Miami FBI spokesman Michael D. Leverock said: "We are not in a position to comment on this matter at this time."

In confirming the settlement, FDC Secretary Julie Jones issued the following statement: "Since my appointment in 2015 we have worked to make meaningful improvements to our state correctional institutions — with a specific focus on the mental health population in our custody. We have achieved significant mental health accomplishments that ensure these inmates are given appropriate clinical services. I am absolutely committed to continuing this important work and our focus on the rehabilitation of those with behavioral health needs, as FDC works to become a national leader in correctional mental health."

As part of the settlement, the Department of Corrections was dismissed from the suit.

Martha Harbin, director of external relations for Corizon, said: "Although every defense lawyer in the case knew Corizon had no liability for Mr. Rainey's death, Corizon contributed $100,000 to the settlement in order to bring the case to a conclusion. Later, an FDOC representative thanked Corizon for making a contribution of any kind."

July 15, 2017

Judge Orders Medical Examiner to Release Skin Tissue in Autopsy of Inmate’s Shower Death

George's Note: When those in power use every available means to keep the evidence of a murder concealed, the whole unsavory business reeks of a monumental cover-up. Rainey's case was bungled from the beginning starting with detectives who did a shoddy investigation fit for a "criminal." Let's face it folks, this was not going to get the "Michael Jackson" treatment. The cover-up continued with Dr. Lew who took only one skin sample and then invoked a county law to hide her incompetence. I actually spoke to Dr. Lew and told her of the scalding hot water I experienced in my three years of working at Dade CI; therefore, Lew's contention that there was no evidence the water was scalding hot, quite frankly, is wrong, dead wrong! 

Rundle conveniently saddled up on Lew's decrepit donkey and rode it for all it was worth. Let's not forget the Florida Department of Corrections - they scrambled to cover up Rainey's slaughter at every level. Corizon receives mention for the fact that onsite administrators knew of wide-spread abuse and did nothing about it. I've fought for justice for Darren Rainey and his family for 5 years. Maybe now the truth will finally emerge.

Judge orders medical examiner to release skin tissue in autopsy of inmate’s shower death


A federal judge on Friday ordered the Miami-Dade medical examiner to release key evidence in the autopsy of a mentally ill inmate suspected of being scalded to death in a shower at Dade Correctional Institution.
U.S. Magistrate Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes said re-cuts of the inmate’s skin tissue as well as other organs must be sent within 10 days to the victim’s family, as well as two other experts hired by plaintiffs in the case.
The court showdown over autopsy evidence was held after Miami-Dade County officials failed to comply with a subpoena requiring them to send the specimens to an expert hired by his family. County attorneys, citing a provision of the Florida Administrative Code, say that any inspection of tissue samples has to be done in the medical examiner’s office, where the examination would be “supervised.”
The hearing is part of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the state and others by Darren Rainey‘s family. The family claims that Rainey, 50, was burned over 90 percent of his body, and his temperature registered over 104 degrees after he was found dead in a shower at Dade Correctional Institution in 2012.
The lawsuit alleges that Rainey — diagnosed with severe schizophrenia — was tortured by corrections officers who used a “shower treatment”’ against him and other mentally ill inmates at the prison. It claims the Florida Department of Corrections and Corizon, the firm responsible for the prison’s healthcare at the time of Rainey’s death, not only knew that mentally ill inmates were being abused at the prison, but allowed staff to cover it up.
The county’s argument about the evidence didn’t hold up because the Rainey family’s attorney, Vicki I. Sarmiento, pointed out that the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office invoked the state code — even though the office routinely sends out slides of organ and tissue samples to attorneys all over Florida.
“This is quite disturbing,” Sarmiento said.
Lawyers representing three other plaintiffs being sued by Rainey’s family also sided with Sarmiento, saying their forensic experts also said releasing slides is standard practice in the field.
Otazo-Reyes agreed, and ordered that sets of re-cut slides also be sent to forensic pathologists hired by Corizon and experts by the two corrections officers being sued by the family. The officers, Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson, were cleared of criminal wrongdoing by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle in March.
Dr. Werner Spitz, a nationally renowned forensic pathologist based in Michigan, has been hired by Rainey’s family to review the slides. Rainey family attorneys asked for the specimens on May 23, as part of a federal subpoena. They asked the county medical examiner to produce certain specimens, or “re-cuts,” of tissue samples that are embedded in paraffin in a glass slide to preserve them. The subpoena requested that the medical examiner send the re-cuts to Spitz in Michigan.
But the county demanded that Spitz come to Miami to review them in the county’s lab.
Forensic pathologists commonly request re-cuts of autopsy slides in civil and criminal cases to verify the cause and manner of death. Edith Georgi, a retired Miami-Dade public defender, testified that in her 30 years of handling homicide cases, she has never had to get a court order to get slides.
The county’s attorney, Christopher Angell, tried to argue that because the law had not been invoked in the past didn’t mean that it couldn’t be invoked now. Dr. Emma Lew, who took over as chief medical examiner in September, decided to enforce the rule, Angell said.
Lew ruled Rainey’s death an accident, caused by a combination of factors, including his mental illness, heart disease and “confinement to a shower.” Lew said that there was no evidence the shower was too hot, and that his skin — despite massive peeling — showed no sign of burns.
Her findings have been questioned by multiple forensic pathologists, including Spitz, who has written what is widely considered the “bible of forensic pathology’’and has practiced for more than 60 years.
Spitz said he couldn’t recall ever having to go to court to ask a judge to enforce a subpoena for a re-cut of a slide in a closed criminal case. Rainey’s case was closed in March, when Rundle wrote a report concluding there was insufficient evidence to prove that corrections officers did anything criminally wrong.
The shower was rigged so that the controls were in an adjacent mop closet accessible only to guards. 

July 3, 2017

Darren Rainey Family Fights For Skin Sample in Gruesome Prison Shower Death

George's Note: 
This fight for the Rainey family to get information is, in a nutshell, an example of one of the many failings of this supposedly "great country." Why does it seem like the first instinct of these governmental agencies is to cover up their inadequacies instead of admitting there is problem? Is it any wonder how our mistrust of government has grown to monumental proportions?

     JULY 02, 2017 4:01 PM

Darren Rainey family fights for skin sample in gruesome prison shower death

A piece of evidence the size of a postage stamp is the focus of an upcoming court hearing in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of Darren Rainey, an inmate who died after he was locked by guards in a hot shower at Dade Correctional Institution.
Miami-Dade County officials have not complied with a subpoena requiring them to send a skin tissue specimen, gathered during Rainey’s autopsy, to an expert hired by Rainey’s family, court records show. County attorneys, citing a provision of the Florida Administrative Code, say that any inspection of tissue samples has to be done in the medical examiner’s office, where the examination would be supervised.
The expert hired by the family, Dr. Werner Spitz, is a nationally renowned forensic pathologist based in Michigan. Rainey family attorneys filed a subpoena in federal court on May 23 demanding that the county medical examiner produce certain specimens, or “re-cuts,” of tissue samples that at are embedded in paraffin in a glass slide to preserve them. The subpoena requests that the medical examiner send the re-cuts to Spitz in Michigan.
It is a common practice by forensic pathologists to request re-cuts of various autopsy slides in civil and criminal cases in order to verify the cause and manner of death, according to Spitz.
Miami-Dade’s medical examiner, Dr. Emma Lew, ruled Rainey’s death an accident, caused by a combination of factors, including his mental illness — he was severely schizophrenic — heart disease and “confinement to a shower.’’ Lew said there was no evidence that the shower was too hot, and that his skin — despite massive peeling — showed no sign of thermal injuries or burns.
Her findings have been questioned by multiple forensic pathologists, including Spitz, who has written what is widely considered the “bible of forensic pathology’’and has practiced for more than 60 years.
Spitz said can’t ever recall having to go to court to ask a judge to enforce a subpoena for a re-cut of a slide in a closed criminal case. Rainey’s case was closed in March, when Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle wrote a memo concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prove that corrections officers turned the water up to scalding temperatures.
The shower was rigged so that the controls were in an adjacent mop closet accessible only to guards. Multiple inmates said that it had been used by officers in the prison’s mental health ward to punish unruly prisoners by exposing them to unbearably hot water and steam. Rainey was locked in the shower for more than 90 minutes, records show.
Spitz has worked on some of the most high-profile cases in U.S. history, including the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Nicole Brown Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey.
“What we are all trying to get to is the truth,’’ Spitz said. “Why can’t this be done like gentlemen and ladies? This is not necessary to go to court. This is something that’s done all the time.’’
The county also declined to permit an independent review of the slides by Dr. John Marraccini, the former medical examiner in Palm Beach, who offered to do it at no charge as a public service, given the questions that have been raised about Lew’s findings.
Marraccini remains puzzled by the roadblocks placed by the county. He said he has been routinely mailed “re-cuts’’ from the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office — and has never been forced to review them in their office.
“I get re-cuts mailed to me from Miami-Dade all the time and I’ve never had to come look at them under their supervision,’’ he said.
In their court motion, Rainey’s attorneys attached a copy of a letter from Darren J. Caprara, director of operations for the medical examiner, citing a provision of the Florida Administrative Code that he said prevented the office from sending out re-cuts. The provision, F.A.C. 11G-2.004, says “an independent examination and analysis of physical evidence and embedded tissue is permitted only under the supervision and control of the Medical Examiner.’’
Unlike statutes, which are passed by the Legislature, provisions of the administrative code are adopted by regulatory agencies.
Another expert, Dr. Michael Baden, has disputed Lew’s findings after reviewing the autopsy file and photographs, which show large swaths of Rainey’s skin peeling off his body, revealing areas that paramedics said appeared to be second- and third-degree burns.
Baden, who was on New York State’s prison medical review board for 40 years, said skin slippage such as that indicated in the photos is “hot water trauma” caused only by prolonged exposure to elevated water temperature.
Lew has said the damage involved post-mortem decomposition in a moist environment, and is not an indication that the shower water was inordinately hot.
“I have not heard of a medical examiner office ever refusing to send microscopic slide re-cuts to to the next of kin’s pathologist, especially after the criminal investigation was closed,’’ Baden said.
The motion on the slides is scheduled to be heard in federal court on July 7.
In the motion, Rainey’s attorney, Milton Grimes, contends that the re-cuts are part of routine discovery in any case — and that they are “easily divisible” and “will not affect the preservation or quality of the remaining tissue.’’
He also asserts that the rule cited by the county is not applicable because the case is being heard in federal court.
As part of a public records request, the Herald received more than 100 emails from the medical examiner’s office pertaining to the Rainey case. According to the emails, re-cuts of slides were provided to the FBI, which has expressed interest in the case.
The emails also revealed that the lead prosecutor in the case, Kathleen Hoague, didn’t know until a few months ago that a slide of Rainey’s skin tissue was even collected by the medical examiner. The state attorney’s office began investigating the case in 2014 — two years after Rainey’s death — when the Miami Herald began requesting public records.
Marraccini said that the slides are a critical part of any autopsy because they will show conditions that are not visible to the naked eye. He said the skin sample taken by Lew would be kept indefinitely and re-cuts do not affect the integrity of the original sample. Theoretically, hundreds of re-cuts can be taken from a single slide, he said.
“The real risk for the medical examiner of doing a re-cut is that you may discover something new that you didn’t see from the initial sample,’’ Marraccini said.
In the case of burns, a medical examiner would look for a cellular reaction that may or may not be present in the hours after a victim’s death.
“If you don’t see a reaction and you hang your hat on that and say it’s fresh and the result of post-mortem injuries — and then you take a re-cut and you see a reaction to the injury, then you have a problem. It shows that the injury is not post-mortem,’’ Marraccini said
“In our business, a medical examiner has to be flexible enough to change the cause and manner of death based on the information that becomes available,’’ he added. “In this case, there is no point of keeping specimens if they find excuses not to allow them to be analyzed.’’
The medical examiner’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The Herald also reached out to Miami-Dade’s mayor, Carlos A. Giménez, who oversees the medical examiner, but he was not available.

June 17, 2017

Background Information on Our change.org Petition Seeking an Independent Investigation of Darren Rainey’s Death

Stop Prison Abuse Now
For further information, please contact
Steven Wetstein swetstein2@aol.com 305-226-2480
Background Information on Our change.org Petition Seeking an Independent Investigation of Darren Rainey’s Death
On March 17, 2017, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released her findings on the death of Darren Rainey, in 2012. Mr. Rainey was an African-American inmate diagnosed with schizophrenia who was serving a two-year sentence for possession of less than two grams of cocaine. He died in a scalding shower at Dade Correctional Institution, only four months before his release. Inexplicably, his death was not treated as suspicious and no investigation was conducted until 2014, when an inmate witness contacted The Miami Herald, which wrote the first story about his untimely death.
Ms. Rundle decided not to charge anyone in his death, which she ruled accidental. Gruesome autopsy photos and witness accounts by inmates, EMT first responders, and nursing staff offer ample evidence that Mr. Rainey’s death was the result of being burned by excessively hot water. He had been placed in a shower specially rigged so that the water could only be controlled by correctional guards from an adjacent closet. The prison has a documented history of systemic maltreatment and abuse of inmates with mental illness. 
Ms. Rundle chose instead to rely on the findings of the Medical Examiner’s report, mysteriously issued more than four years after Mr. Rainey’s death. This report concluded that Mr. Rainey died from “Schizophrenia, Atherosclerotic Heart Disease and Confinement Inside a Shower Room.” According to the report, the huge areas of skin that peeled off from his body was the result of “slippage of the skin” that occurred after his death.
This conclusion has not been supported by independent pathologists consulted by The Miami Herald, which broke this story and has tirelessly pursued it through a ground-breaking investigative series. The nature of skin damage can be assessed by microscopic tissue examination, yet the Medical Examiner’s report was based on just a single sample. Ms. Rundle refuses to allow independent testing, and has reneged on her previous agreement to let independent pathologist Dr. John Marracini, one of the two pathologists consulted by the Herald, do an independent review of the evidence.
Stop Prison Abuse Now (SPAN) has started a petition to Ms. Rundle, urging that she consent to an independent review of all evidence, so that the truth of Darren Rainey’s death can finally be known. SPAN is a coalition of organizations and concerned individuals committed to protecting the rights of Florida's prisoners, with a special emphasis on those with mental illness. 

May 6, 2017

Graphic Photos Stir Doubts About Darren Rainey’s ‘Accidental’ Prison Death

George's Note: I've put selected crime scene and autopsy photos at the bottom of this email. There is a link to a larger set of photos as well. Rainey's photos are graphic and disturbing. But perhaps not as disturbing as the collective effort by the Florida Department of Corrections, the State Attorney's Office, investigating Detectives, and Medical Examiner Dr. Lew to paint Rainey's death as accidental. 

MAY 06, 2017 9:09 AM

Graphic photos stir doubts about Darren Rainey’s ‘accidental’ prison death


The photographs of Darren Rainey’s body are difficult to look at: skin curling from nearly every part of his body, from the top of his nose to his ankles. Large swaths of exposed body tissue, some of it blood red, and other portions straw yellow. Skin blistering on portions of his face, his ears and his neck. Deep red tissue exposed on his chest, his back, a thigh and an arm. Yellow tissue exposed on his buttocks and left leg.
About the only portion of his body not affected are his feet.
Paramedic Alexander Lopez saw the injuries firsthand that evening, after Rainey collapsed and died in a shower in the mental health unit at Dade Correctional Institution on Jan. 23, 2012.
“[Patient] was found with second- and third-degree burns on 30 percent of his body,’’ Lopez wrote, adding that prison staff told him that “inmate was found on shower floor with hot water running.’’
The autopsy report, which inexplicably took three years to be completed and another year to be released, was puzzling to Rainey’s relatives, who said they were pressured by prison officials to immediately have him cremated.
His death was an “accident,” Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Emma Lew concluded in December 2015. He died from “complications from schizophrenia, heart disease and confinement to a shower.’’
Paramedic Alexander Lopez
Inmates and staff described how after Rainey was carried out of the shower, he was so red he looked like he had been “boiled’’ — and that his skin was peeling off his body “like fruit roll-ups.’’
Since Fernández Rundle announced there would be no charges, the Herald has obtained thousands of pages of reports, emails, testimony and photographs from the state attorney’s office, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department —which was the lead investigative agency.
Sources also provided the Herald with postmortem photographs, which journalists shared with Drs. Michael Baden and John Marraccini, both forensic pathologists, for their review. Select photos are published with this story in print and online.
The Herald’s examination of Fernández Rundle’s 101-page report, which summarized a two-year investigation, identified numerous contradictions and omissions regarding both the autopsy findings and other evidence and statements used as the basis to clear the corrections officers.
Lew maintains that Rainey suffered no burns and that there was no trauma to his body, and no credible evidence that the shower had been excessively hot. Lew declined to be interviewed for this story, but did answer some — but not all — written questions submitted by the Herald.
She said she was confident from the beginning that the injuries Rainey suffered were not burns — so confident that she did not take more than one skin tissue sample. A careful examination of skin tissue samples is critical to determining the presence or absence of burns, Marraccini said.
Lew contends Rainey’s skin peeling, also known as sloughing, occurred after his death as part of postmortem decomposition.
“Postmortem [after-death] slippage of the skin was evident during the examination of the body just before autopsy,’’ she wrote. “The slippage was similar to that seen in other bodies.’’
Fernández Rundle said the absence of burns made it impossible to prove that a crime had been committed, since it meant the shower was not dangerously hot. She emphasized that “science” showed that Rainey did not die from the actions of the corrections officers.
However, Marraccini and Baden both told the Herald the photos indicate burns over a significant portion of Rainey’s body.
Marraccini, former medical examiner in Palm Beach County, faulted the Miami-Dade medical examiner for not taking additional skin tissue samples, since it is important to look at skin tissue from the area that suffered the most damage.
The Herald asked Lew to indicate from where on Rainey’s anatomy she took the skin tissue sample. It was one of the questions she did not answer.
“Given that first responders are calling these burns, the prudent thing is to examine them thoroughly to see whether they are pre- or postmortem effects,’’ said Marraccini, adding that photographs shared by the Herald — particularly ones taken in the prison infirmary immediately after he died — raise suspicion.
“You have to assume from the start that these are burns until proven otherwise, not the other way around,’’ Marraccini said.
Baden, who was on New York State’s prison medical review board for 40 years, said skin slippage is “hot water trauma” that can only be caused by prolonged exposure to elevated water temperature.
“I think he suffered thermal burns of his skin. They are not postmortem decomposition. These were heat effects. You don’t decompose in a facility right away. The decomposition takes time,’’ he said.
Lew maintains that the different shades of tissue on Rainey’s body — the deep red vs. the yellow — are the result of slippage that occurred after his death, but at different times.
Marraccini said while it could be true that some of the sloughing happened after Rainey’s death, the deep red tissue signifies thermal injuries.
Explained Baden: “The reddish area happens while the blood is coursing and the heart is beating. Once the heart stops, that doesn’t make the heat effect go away. So there was skin damage while he was alive and further skin damage after he was dead.’’
Marraccini also noted that one of the photographs appear to show bruising on Rainey’s right hand consistent with him banging on the door as some inmates have claimed in their interviews with detectives and the Herald. The state attorney report said investigators found no convincing evidence that Rainey was screaming or banging on the door, and Lew said she detected no bruise on Rainey’s right hand.
The county has refused to allow Marraccini to do an independent study of the skin tissue slide that Lew took from Rainey’s body. The Rainey family has requested that the slide not be released to the Herald. Relatives did not object to the Herald publishing the photos that accompany this story.
Lew said she considered all the evidence, and referred the Herald to her “classification of pending case’’ report, which lists everything she reviewed, including the testimony of a health and safety inspector who said the temperature reading in the shower two days laterwas 160 degrees.
In an interview, Fernández Rundle said she is confident in Lew’s work, so much so that she didn’t ask another medical examiner to review the autopsy despite the years-long delay in completing it.
Lew, who was deputy medical examiner at the time of Rainey’s death, said the case had been on hold awaiting further investigation by Miami-Dade police. Police have said they were waiting for Dr. Lew’s autopsy findings.
The dormant case was revived in April 2014, when the Herald began investigating the death of Rainey, a 50-year-old serving two years for a minor drug conviction, as well as other suspicious deaths at Dade Correctional Institution.
The Rainey family, which has brought a civil suit against the Florida Department of Corrections, believes that police and the medical examiner conspired with prison officials to cover up what happened.
“We are appalled that the state attorney did not look deeper into this case and see the criminality of the people who were involved,” said Milton Grimes, the family’s attorney, on March 17, the day the state attorney’s report was released.
Grimes, who declined to comment for this story, has suggested that police and state attorney investigators gave too much weight to corrections officers’ statements and not enough to the broader context — including evidence that the temperature of the rigged shower was a dangerous 160 degrees when turned on full hot — and that corrections officers had been abusing mentally ill prisoners for years.
Among other things, the Herald has found the following problems with the state attorney’s (SAO) review of Rainey’s death:
The SAO said a paramedic on the scene, Alexander Lopez, “noted that there were no signs of trauma on Rainey’s body...”
In fact, Lopez, who examined Rainey’s body, did not mention in his report if there were or weren’t signs of trauma. But he did write that Rainey “was found with second- and third-degree burns on approximately 30 percent of his body.”
The state attorney also failed to mention that Brittany McLaurin, an investigator with the medical examiner’s office, wrote in a report the day after Rainey’s death: “Visible trauma was noticed throughout the decedent’s body.’’
The SAO dismisses a finding by the prison health and safety inspector, Darlene Dixon, that the hot water in the shower tested at 160 degrees, far higher than is safe. Dixon took the reading two days after Rainey’s death. The state attorney said the reading was questionable for two reasons: Dixon used a meat thermometer and another staff member measured the water at 120 degrees earlier the same day.
In fact, the Herald has learned, Dixon not only told investigators that the shower tested at 160 degrees when on full-hot, but that she had previously put in work orders on multiple occasions asking that the unsafe situation be fixed. Detectives and the state attorney failed to explore or even mention that in the final report.
Dr. John Marraccini, former medical examiner in Palm Beach County
Previous tests that found similar unsafe conditions were taken with a digital thermometer, not a meat thermometer, sources told the Herald.
Furthermore, a meat thermometer, also known as a cooking thermometer, is an acceptable way to test water temperatures. Manufacturers suggest one way to determine the tool’s accuracy is by putting it in boiling water.
The SAO report incorrectly says that another staff member took a reading before Dixon that same Monday after Rainey’s death and that the full-hot temperature was 120 degrees. In fact, Dixon took her reading before the other staff member, the Herald has learned. But she didn’t send an email about the reading until later in the day after the hot water supply had been adjusted and the water retested, by which time it topped off at 120 degrees.
“Why in the official report does Dr. Lew discuss the temperature as being 120 degrees?” said Marraccini. “It doesn’t make any sense when you had a health and safety inspector say it was 160 and he lost so much skin. That skin didn’t come off from black magic.’’
Asked about the four-year time frame for releasing the autopsy, Lew replied that there have been 174 in-custody prison death cases since 2004 that have taken more than a year to investigate.
“We have not found any evidence of abuse in the cases that have been brought to us over the past several years,’’ she added.

​Darren Rainey's Crime Scene and Autopsy Photos​

Autopsy photograph of Rainey’s back.

Crime scene photograph of Rainey’s body in the prison infirmary right after his death. 
The white patches are material that staff used in efforts to revive him.

Crime scene photograph showing Rainey’s right hand and what appears to be a bruise that could have been caused by him banging at the shower door.

Crime scene photo showing the condition of Rainey's eyes.

For all photos go to: