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:

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


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.

"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:
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.
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."