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

BY JULIE K. BROWN
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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.’’
[PATIENT] WAS FOUND WITH SECOND- AND THIRD-DEGREE BURNS ON 30 PERCENT OF HIS BODY.
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.
YOU HAVE TO ASSUME FROM THE START THAT THESE ARE BURNS UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
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​


Inline image 6​    
Autopsy photograph of Rainey’s back.

Inline image 7
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.

Inline image 1
Crime scene photo showing the condition of Rainey's eyes.

For all photos go to:

Miami-Dade Democrats Debate Asking State Attorney to Resign Following Darren Rainey Verdict

Image result for miami new times logo
Miami-Dade Democrats Debate Asking State Attorney to Resign Following Darren Rainey Verdict

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Even members of Rundle's own party say they're upset. According to a draft resolution that New Times obtained, the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party is mulling a formal resolution asking Rundle to step down after 24 years in office. The resolution, which was written by the party's Civil Rights & Social Justice Committee, has not yet been passed and does not represent the party's official position. The party will hold an Executive Committee meeting at 6 p.m. tonight, where the measure's authors say they intend to ask the rest of the party to vote on whether to censure Rundle.
"The Miami-Dade DEC strongly condemns the State Attorney’s Office stalled and incomplete investigation of Darren Rainey’s death, and therefore urges Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle to resign from office if she cannot pursue justice for all victims of crime, including the most vulnerable," the draft ordinance reads.
A spokesperson for the state attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There's ongoing debate within the party, however, over whether the text goes too far, or whether the party ought to formally censure one of its own elected members. Juan Cuba, the Dade party chair, tells New Times that the party is currently debating how to best move forward after the state attorney issued her memo closing the case.
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"The membership base of the Democratic Party is extremely upset with State Attorney’s decision not to bring charges on the Darren Rainey case," Cuba said. "We agree there should have been charges brought, and we are going to meet with the State Attorney to discuss the case. But there is a process for these resolutions to be heard and voted on, we will go through that process tonight and over the next couple of weeks."
But multiple party members, who spoke to New Times on a condition of anonymity, said the resolution has been forced through an increasingly long series of hoops before a full vote. Several people said they're worried that Rundle-aligned party members are pushing to table the ordinance indefinitely. If passed, the measure would be purely symbolic.

But Cuba says the party agrees that something ought to be said about Rundle's decision. Four weeks ago, Cuba, who hosts his own podcast, conducted a 45-minute long interview about the case with multiple criminal-justice advocates. He wrote online last month that "Too many things in the State Attorney close-out memo just don’t add up," and asked that the state attorney conduct some sort of public forum to discuss her decision-making.
"The State Attorney should have brought Manslaughter charges," Cuba wrote. "Even though it would be a tough case to win, it’s about trust in a system that will pursue justice always."
Cuba directed the party's Civil Rights committee co-chair, lawyer Erica Selig, to draft an ordinance pertaining to the Rainey verdict. But once Selig wrote that ordinance, it passed through a series of subcommittee votes, including a non-binding vote conducted without a quorum. That symbolic vote was intended to push party leaders to put the measure up for a full vote at tonight's Democratic Executive Committee meeting. But the party's leadership declined to put the item on tonight's agenda.
"Generally, people agree that there should have been charges brought," Cuba tells New Times. "How to handle it, or how to move forward, is, I think, the only disagreement on that."
The Miami-Dade County People's Progressive Caucus, the farthest-left body within the county party, issued a statement in March "vehemently condemning" the Rainey decision.
"Katherine Fernandez Rundle has largely remained unscathed by her awful record," that statement reads. "She has been in office since 1993 and usually runs unopposed for reelection. As members of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, and by extension the Florida Democratic Party, the Progressive Caucus is disturbed to have in our ranks a police brutality enabler and apologist."
In Rundle's 24 years as the top county prosecutor, she had not charged a cop for an on-duty shooting until this month, when she charged North Miami cop Jonathan Aledda for shooting Charles Kinsey, an unarmed behavioral therapist attempting to help an autistic man. Some have speculated whether the Aledda charges were some sort of make-up for the Rainey verdict.
Party members can also call resolutions for a vote from the floor at any Executive Committee meeting, but without the measure formally on the agenda tonight, there is no guarantee the party will vote on the item. Selig, who wrote the ordinance, and her subcommittee co-chair, Eric Bason, sent out an email to the entire party at 10 a.m. this morning, stating that they intend to push forward and propose the measure from the floor later this evening:
Dear Fellow DEC Member:
Attached please find a draft resolution prepared by the Civil Rights & Social Justice Committee of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.
The draft resolution concerns State Attorney Rundle's failure to bring charges in the Darren Rainey case and, also, her refusal to bring charges against any officers for on-duty killings during her 24-year career.
If you are unfamiliar with the case, here is a recent article on it: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-fla-inmate-found-dead-shower-held-accountable-article-1.3003358
A longer version of this resolution has been tabled by the Steering Committee and, while it passed through the Issues Committee (by a nonbinding vote), it didn't make it onto the DEC agenda today so we intend to bring this resolution on the floor to the general membership in order to discuss it and vote.
Sincerely,
Erica Selig and Eric Bason
Co-Chairs of the Social Justice Committee
"With this resolution, we want to send the strongest message possible that this behavior is unacceptable from any elected politician, let alone a Democrat," Selig told New Times today by phone.
The rest of the ordinance condemns Rundle for enabling abusive law-enforcement officials in the county.
"Mr. Rainey’s death shocked the conscience of Miami-Dade County and the entire country," the draft letter reads. "Katherine Fernandez-Rundle’s inaction does not represent the values of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party supports the dignity of all people, including prisoners in the state’s care. Her failure to hold anyone accountable for Mr. Rainey’s death places the most vulnerable prisoners at risk for more abuse."

March 19, 2017

Prosecutors Find No Wrongdoing in Shower Death at Dade Correctional Mental Health Unit

George's Note:

Having worked for three years as a psychotherapist in the psychiatric ward at the Dade Correctional Institution, the absurdity of the state attorney's "Swiss Cheese" report justifying the lack of criminal charges against cruel, evil, sadistic guards is more than self-evident. I know from experience that guards lied regularly on incident reports to cover up their crimes against patients in my former unit. After guards beat one of my patients, I attempted to advocate for their protection in a morning staffing. My pleadings to hold guards accountable were met with silence and blank stares. Even the head of the psychiatric unit, Dr. Christina Perez, took no corrective action to address my concerns.

Unwilling to stay silent and look the other way, I was fired two months later. The dismissal of the only mental health professional to raise a voice sent a message loud and clear - there was nobody left to interfere with the depravity that would soon envelop the unit. Within months men were being tortured with scalding showers until guards killed Darren Rainey. At least two other staffers, including Harriet Krzykowski, were eye witnesses to beatings that went unreported out of fear of retaliation from guards.

The actions of Cornelius Thompson and Roland Clark directly led to the death of Rainey - a fact not in dispute. At a bare minimum, it was manslaughter. That Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle believed the guards' account was ample proof of her ignorance of the hostile, toxic working environment in the psych ward. Add to that Dr. Lew's final autopsy report that conflicts with the preliminary report, and the recipe for the cover up was complete. 

Setting aside this travesty of justice, one of many in the FDC and prison systems nationwide, the vastly larger issue screaming for attention is how a lack of mental health treatment in America directly contributes to the mass incarceration of the severely mentally ill. Darren Rainey was poor, black, and mentally ill. His killing is symptomatic of the failure of our country to address mental health issues in our schools and communities. We have little in the way of safety nets for at-risk children and young adults suffering from mental illness. Many children, out of fear of being ostracized or bullied, suffer in silence. Having also worked in a psychiatric middle school setting for Dade County schools, I have witnessed first hand how a program of early intervention can turn a student's life around.

When mental health treatment is provided early, the chances of a child's life being derailed by mental illness declines dramatically. Those like Darren Rainey who can't get treatment end up dropping out, self-medicating with street drugs, and falling in with the wrong crowd. Once they're arrested for behavior that is often a manifestation of untreated mental illness, they enter the nightmarish quagmire that is our criminal justice system.

The cost of treating individual children and young adults with mental illness is far less than the $24,000 a year per inmate that Florida spends today - a paltry figure that is one of the lowest in the U.S. Every dollar spent on children will save twenty times as much down the road and will help insure that they become productive members of society. Spending tax dollars wisely on mental health will benefit many who now live without treatment, reduce the vast numbers of the mentally ill in prisons and jails, and as a consequence, permanently close costly prisons. It's a win-win proposition that will insure prisons and jails are no longer warehouses for the mentally ill. It is up to all of us to pressure lawmakers to fund mental health initiatives; otherwise, Darren Rainey's brutal death will be in vain.



MARCH 17, 2017 4:32 PM

Prosecutors find no wrongdoing in shower death at Dade Correctional mental health unit


BY JULIE K. BROWN

A 101-page investigation released Friday concludes that corrections officers who locked a schizophrenic inmate in a hot shower at Dade Correctional Institution and left him there for nearly two hours — until realizing he was dead — committed no crime.

The report, issued by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, said the death of 50-year-old prisoner Darren Rainey was an accident, the result of complications from his mental illness, a heart condition and “confinement in a shower.”

At least six inmates claimed that the shower was specially rigged so that corrections officers controlled the temperature and were able to crank it up to scalding — or down to an uncomfortably frigid spray, thereby using it as punishment to control unruly inmates, most of whom suffered from mental illnesses.

But the state attorney’s two-year probe decided that the inmates’ statements were not credible.

While the report cited significant inconsistencies in the accounts of inmates, it acknowledged the same was true to a lesser degree of the accounts of staffers, although there was “general agreement on a core set of salient facts.”

Sgt. John Fan Fan, and officers Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — the staffers involved in putting Rainey into the shower — did not act with premeditation, malice, recklessness, ill-will, hatred or evil intent, the state attorney said.

The report includes photographs, videos, dozens of witness statements, the medical examiner’s summary, prison housing logs, timelines and other documents.

Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey’s siblings, suggested the report’s release, late on a Friday, on St. Patrick’s Day, was meant to limit public scrutiny of the clear “inadequacies” of the investigation.

“We are appalled that the state attorney did not look deeper into this case and see the criminality of the people who were involved,” Grimes said. He said the family is disappointed, but remains hopeful that federal investigators still probing possible civil rights abuses will find justice.

Grimes suggested that police and state attorney investigators gave too much weight to corrections officers’ testimony and not enough to the broader context — news reports and inmate grievances suggesting prison staff has been abusing inmates at the prison for years.

Others also questioned whether the case was thorough.

“A lot of evidence was tampered with because the people there who had an interest did not want it to come out,” said Harriet Krzykowski, a former mental health counselor at the prison who was not interviewed as part of the probe.

Among the most controversial portions of the state inquiry is the temperature of the shower. The report gives no indication that crime scene investigators turned on the water to see how hot it ran. A prison captain, assigned as the environmental health and safety officer, tested it two days after Rainey’s death and found it to be 160 degrees, far greater than the 120-degree limit set by the state.

But her reading was dismissed as not indicative of the temperature when Rainey was inside.

Other than two prison officers, a nurse and a paramedic, no one was interviewed by police — including multiple inmate witnesses who had reached out to various law enforcement authorities — until two years later, when the Miami Herald began raising questions about the case as part of what would become a three-year probe into corruption in Florida prisons.

The final report does not address why the case was put on hold, or why, nearly five years later, the autopsy has never been released.

Dr. Emma Lew, Miami-Dade’s medical examiner, was emphatic, however, that Rainey did not suffer burns of any kind, and there was no evidence of any trauma on his body, according to the state attorney’s report issued Friday.

However, a never-released preliminary report written the day of the autopsy refers to “visible trauma … throughout the decedent’s body.”

A nurse told the Herald early on that Rainey’s body temperature that night was so high it could not be measured on a thermometer.

One fact is undisputed: Rainey’s skin was peeling off his body when he was pulled out of the shower.

Since 2014, police detectives spoke with 26 inmates who were in the mental ward, called the transitional care unit (TCU) at the time of Rainey’s death. At least six inmates said that the shower had been used to punish inmates who misbehaved. And three reported that they themselves had been subjected to punishing showers. Some say the shower was used by inmates without any problem. Fourteen inmates were either too mentally ill to say anything credible—or they refused to talk to police altogether.

Lew also discounted what the prisoners said because the prison nurses police interviewed claimed they had never treated — nor heard about — any inmates who had burns as a result of the shower.

But Krzykowski and others medical workers at the prison have told the Herald that they were pressured to keep quiet by both their employer, a private contractor, and by corrections officers who threatened to leave them unprotected when dealing with unstable inmates.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who reviewed the report for the Herald, said it’s clear that the evidence did not meet the legal standard required to charge any of the officers with a crime.

“If you want to buy the government-conspiracy theory that the state attorney never charges corrections officers because they are part of the conspiracy, you are going to say they twisted the facts to support their theory,” he said.

“But if you look at it objectively, I don’t disagree with the results that were released. The only person that says that Rainey was burned and scalded was one inmate — and when you compare that to the rest of the evidence, it’s not consistent.”

That inmate, Harold Hempstead, was an orderly in the mental ward when Rainey died. It was Hempstead who first raised concerns about the episode, writing letters and filing complaints with police, the medical examiner and the state attorney about Rainey’s death as well as other alleged abuses inside the TCU.

He and other inmates and mental health staff told the Herald that state prison guards used forms of torture, including 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, known as “air trays.” was known as the “diet squad’’ and they often preyed on inmates who were too ill to coherently report what had happened, prisoners said.

Around the time of Rainey’s death, another inmate hanged himself from an air conditioning vent, leaving a note sewn into his shorts detailing a litany of alleged abuses against inmates in the mental health unit.

“I’m in a mental health facility … I’m supposed to be getting help for my depression, suicidal tendencies and I was sexually assaulted,” wrote Richard Mair, 40.

The Department of Corrections never investigated Mair’s complaints, and the state attorney’s investigation in the Rainey case was limited to the facts surrounding Rainey’s death.

State investigators said they didn’t find Hempstead to be credible because his timeline was at odds with events reflected on a video surveillance camera. Also, Hempstead could not have seen some of the things he claimed to have seen because his window was covered with paper for part of that time. The document suggests he pressured other inmates to report things that didn’t happen, pointing out that many of the inmates’ statements were “inconsistent with the testimony of correctional personnel, all of the nurses, as well as the physical evidence.”

Hempstead was relocated to another state Friday, yet undisclosed, through a prisoner exchange, making him unavailable for comment. Prison officials said the timing was coincidental.

The report itself is inconsistent in some areas. On page 68, for example, the investigation says that only one inmate, Halden Casey, gave information about being placed in the shower with excessively hot water.

Earlier in the report, it mentions two other inmates: Lawrence Smith said he had been put in the hot shower about a month before Rainey died and that he had reported it to the nurses. Another inmate, Timothy Sliders, said he had been left in the hot shower for 30 minutes, but he managed to avoid injury by standing outside the spray. Another time, when he mentioned the water was comfortable, a guard went into the janitor’s closet and turned it up hotter, he told police detectives according to the report.

Rainey, who grew up in Tampa, was serving a two-year sentence for cocaine possession and had been at Dade for about four months at the time of his death. He reportedly had soiled himself in his cell and refused to clean up, so the officers led him to the second-floor shower, despite other showers being closer to his cell.

Lew, the medical examiner, noted that people with schizophrenia have an impaired ability to compensate for “heat stress” and that this, combined with the powerful medication he was taking, could have contributed to hyperthermia and created a predisposition to cardiac arrest.

She attributed his skin slippage to as an event that happened post-mortem consistent with “exposure to a warm, moist environment” and the effects of changes during the early stages of body decomposition.

Six inmates claimed that Rainey yelled that he wanted out of the shower. No member of the prison staff reported hearing anything.

Julie Jones, secretary for the Department of Corrections, said she was appreciative of the effort by police and the state attorney. The agency remains focused on implementing reforms in the way it cares for mentally ill inmates.

“We will continue to integrate services which ensure these inmates successfully re-enter society and lead crime-free lives upon release,’’ she said.

Following the Herald’s stories, Dade Correctional’s warden and assistant warden were forced out, and, later, then-Secretary Michael Crews stepped down amid political pressure. He was replaced by Jones. Other high-level prison officials have also left, including the prison agency’s inspector general, Jeffery Beasley — the system’s “watchdog” — who was accused by his own investigators of thwarting investigations.

Two of the guards identified as locking Rainey in the shower left their prison jobs, but were allowed to keep their law enforcement certifications. Roland Clarke is now a police officer in Miami Gardens and Cornelius Thompson works as a federal corrections officer.

Rainey’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections in 2016. It is still pending.

The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating possible civil rights abuses in Florida prisons.

March 17, 2017

After 4 1/2 Years of Official Silence, Decision Day on Florida Prison Shower Death

George's Note:

Today the state attorney's long awaited report will be released. Fernandez-Rundle will likely announce that she can't move forward with indictments or convene a grand jury. Her reasons undoubtedly will be along the lines of, there isn't enough evidence, eye witnesses are unreliable, and the medical examiner found Rainey's death to be accidental.

And so the cover-up is almost complete. Since Fernandez-Rundle won't prosecute, it's left to the Department of Justice headed by Jeff Sessions, the alleged racist and liar who presumably perjured himself before members of congress. Chances of Sessions moving forward - ZERO.

If by some miracle I'm wrong, the 4 1/2 years I've tried to get Rainey justice will have been worth it. We all know however, that we're living in an age where there is little accountability for crimes against the mentally ill behind bars.



MARCH 16, 2017 9:54 PM 

After 4 1/2 years of official silence, decision day on Florida prison shower death 



Darren Rainey


BY JULIE K. BROWN

In June 2012, Darren Rainey was forced into a shower by officers at Dade Correctional Institution and left there, under a blistering spray of scalding water, for nearly two hours. Rainey, who suffered from schizophrenia, screamed and begged to be let out of the small stall, until, finally, he collapsed and died, flecks of his skin floating in the water — and his body temperature so high that it couldn't be registered on a thermometer.

On Friday, nearly five years after his death, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle is expected to release her office's investigation into Rainey's death — and announce whether anyone will be held criminally responsible.

Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey's family, said Fernández Rundle's office contacted him Thursday to alert him that the report would be released Friday afternoon. The fact that it is being released on a Friday afternoon — and on St. Patrick's Day, when many a work day is cut short — gives him scant hope that justice will be served.

Releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon is typically known as a “Friday news dump,” an attempt to release a report at a time when it will avoid scrutiny by the public and the media.

"As you can imagine, his family has been waiting a very long time for justice," Grimes told the Miami Herald on Thursday evening. “They are very anxious about what the state attorney will say and hopeful that someone will be charged."

Fernández Rundle's spokesman, Ed Griffith, did not return emails or voice messages left by the Herald on Thursday evening. But sources had told the Herald two weeks ago that the report was finished and its release was imminent.

Dade Correctional Institution — located on the edge of the Everglades near Homestead — is a facility that houses approximately 1,500 male inmates. It is one of a handful of state prisons with transitional care units (TCUs) that house prisoners who suffer from mental illness.

RAINEY'S DEATH LED TO THE GROWTH OF A 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 FERNÁNDEZ RUNDLE TO BRING CHARGES AGAINST THE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN RAINEY'S DEATH.

Dade's corrections officers had specially rigged a shower in the TCU to be cranked up to scalding temperatures, or made frigidly cold, to punish inmates who were unruly, the Miami Herald found as part of a three-year investigation into statewide prison abuse that began in 2014. The controls were in a different room.

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.”

Rainey, 50, was serving a two-year sentence for drug possession and had been at Dade for about four months at the time of his death. On June 23, 2012, Rainey reportedly had 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. But witnesses said Rainey screamed and begged to be let out, promising them he would behave. The officers reportedly taunted him and laughed, saying “is it hot enough?''

Miami-Dade police were called to the prison to investigate that night, and issued a preliminary report. They classified the death as an “unexplained in-custody death,” and set it aside. It wasn't until the Herald began writing about the incident in May 2014 that detectives began looking into it in earnest.

Even then, Miami-Dade's medical examiner would not release the autopsy or the cause of death — not even to Rainey's family. Andre Chapman, Rainey's brother, said prison officials had pressured him into cremating Darren, and because the family had no money, he agreed.

Following the Herald's stories, Dade CI's warden and assistant warden were forced out, and later, the secretary for the department also stepped down amid political pressure. To this day, however, no one has been disciplined or charged, and several of the officers on duty that night were promoted after the incident.

The two guards identified in reports as locking Rainey in the shower left their prison jobs, but were allowed to keep their law enforcement certifications. One of them is now a police officer in Miami Gardens and the other works as a federal corrections officer.

Last year, some details of the autopsy were leaked, showing that the medical examiner had ruled Rainey's death “accidental” — the result of complications from schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement” in a shower. This led to speculation that no charges would be filed in the case.

THE TWO GUARDS IDENTIFIED IN REPORTS AS LOCKING RAINEY IN THE SHOWER LEFT THEIR PRISON JOBS, BUT WERE ALLOWED TO KEEP THEIR LAW ENFORCEMENT CERTIFICATIONS.

Rainey's family filed a civil lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections in 2016. In it, relatives said Rainey had been burned over 90 percent of his body and his skin was so hot to the touch that it was peeling.

His death led to the growth of a 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 Fernández Rundle to bring charges against the officers involved in Rainey's death.

“If indeed the report on Darren Rainey's brutal murder comes out on a Friday afternoon...SPAN views it as regrettable, because perhaps it's being done to detract from it so that people won't pay attention. We will, however, wait and comment on the report when it is released,” said Steve Wetstein, SPAN's spokesman.

While Rainey's death has led to some reforms in the treatment of those with mental illnesses in Florida prisons, the system remains dangerously understaffed and rife with violence, as evidenced by recent turmoil and riots at prisons throughout Florida.

Several groups, including Disability Rights Florida and the American Civil Liberties Union, had called on the U.S. attorney general last year to investigate after it appeared that local and state investigations weren't moving ahead. A federal probe into abuse in Florida prisons is pending.