November 1, 2014

It's Been One Month Since S.P.A.N. Met With State Attorney Katherine Rundle-Fernandez Regarding the Death of Darren Rainey

Stop Prison Abuse Now (SPAN) met with State Attorney Rundle-Fernandez along with four high ranking Assistant State Attorneys one month ago. The following is a report of that meeting. 

Report on Our Meeting with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle
State Attorney's Office
Miami, Florida

SPAN representatives Steve Wetstein, Marilyn Lieberman, George Mallinckrodt, Alvin Romer, Marc Dubin and I met with Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and four Assistant State Attorneys last Tuesday. The Assistant SAs were Don Horn, Chief Assistant State Attorney-Administration; Kathleen Hoague, Chief Assistant State Attorney-Felony Divisions; Howard Rosen, Deputy Chief Assistant State Attorney for Special Prosecutions; and Johnette Hardiman, Assistant State Attorney, Division Chief, Special Prosecutions Intake.

The meeting ran over an hour. Katherine Rundle was very gracious and gave us a general overview of what her office does. Steve delivered our list of concerns and our hope that her office would take a prominent role in the investigation (outlined in the attached letter that we gave to her after the meeting).

Ms. Rundle explained that yes, her office IS playing a role in the investigation and noted that Howard Rosen and Kathleen Hoague were particularly involved. We were pleasantly surprised to learn this. She said that she would give us only limited information as the investigation is still underway.

She explained that her office is working side-by-side with the Miami-Dade Police, not in a supervisory role but to assist them. She mentioned that Miami-Dade County Police routinely contacts her office if an “in custody” death occurs in a corrections facility in the County. In Darren Rainey’s case, they did NOT contact her when Rainey’s death occurred. Her office did not learn of his death until the first Miami Herald article came out. As a result, her office has been involved in the investigation for the last several 4 months. When I asked why the police did not contact her office, she said that DOC officials may have considered the death to be a “natural death in custody,” or something along that line.

When Steve asked what we could expect to happen with the investigation within the next three months, Ms. Rundle said that it would very likely be completed within the next several weeks.

Our group spoke about our concerns and the need for an investigation not only of Rainey’s death but of the systemic abuse that is taking place within the state prison system. George spoke of the incidents and behavior of the guards he observed while working in the Dade Correctional Institution. 

Marc Dubin (attorney with the Center for Independent Living and a former prosecutor) made an eloquent plea at the end of the meeting for Ms. Rundle and her office to consider sending their own letter to the U.S. Attorney General to request an investigation by the Department of Justice, since Darren Rainey’s death and other cases of abuse of inmates with mental illness within the state corrections system represent serious civil rights violations.

We appreciated the time that Ms. Rundle gave to us and the fact that she brought in four of her top attorneys into the meeting.

However, we are not particularly optimistic that any guards or other personnel will be indicted for Mr. Rainey’s death, as it’s been more than two years since it occurred and the investigation has only recently been re-opened, mainly because of Julie Brown’s investigative reports in the Herald. At the same time, she seemed to seriously listen to our plea that her office contact the U.S. Attorney General’s office independently.

Reporting for SPAN,

Amy McClellan