NPR--Prosecutors in Miami-Dade County said that they found no evidence of a crime in the death of a prison inmate who was left for two hours in a hot shower.
Four years after Darren Rainey died at the Dade Correctional Institution, the state's investigation found that the corrections officers who locked Rainey in the shower committed no crime. Miami-Dade prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle opted not to charge any of the officers, finding that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff."
The state's medical examiner, Dr. Emma Lew, found that Rainey's death was an accident resulting from his schizophrenia, heart disease and being confined in the shower. "It is not substantiated that temperatures inside the shower room were excessively high," she wrote.
But the investigation's findings are disputed. As The Associated Press reports, several witnesses said that Rainey's skin appeared to be "peeled back" and reddish in spots, with one inmate claiming that Rainey looked like "a boiled lobster."
The Miami Herald also spoke with witnesses who disputed the state's conclusions:
"Witnesses, including a nurse on duty that night, and several inmates interviewed by the Herald over the past two years, have said that two corrections officers, Cornelius Thompson and Roland Clark, forced Rainey into an enclosed, locked shower stall and that the water had been cranked as high as 180 degrees from a neighboring room, where the heat controls were. ... Rainey screamed in terror and begged to be let out for more than an hour until he collapsed and died, witnesses told the Herald. Some of the officers taunted and laughed at him, some inmates who were in the unit at the time of his death said."
The Herald interviewed Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who was on New York State's prison medical review board for 40 years, and he questioned the medical examiner's findings:
" 'Well, you don't die from schizophrenia,' said Baden, former chief medical examiner in New York City. 'And skin just doesn't slough off by itself.'
Sloughing, he said, is 'hot water trauma' that can only be caused by prolonged exposure to elevated water temperature.
If pieces of Rainey's skin peeled off simply from his being exposed to a lengthy shower spray, Baden said, then anyone who ever takes a long bath would find their skin peeling off their body."
Baden also questioned why it took more than three years for the state's autopsy report to be completed.
Rainey was four months into a two-year sentence on a cocaine charge when he died. He was being housed in the prison's Transitional Care unit, for the mentally ill.
In 2014 and 2015, the Herald published an investigative series on deadly abuse in Florida's prisons; the paper's reporting eventually led to a settlement between the Florida Department of Corrections and a statewide disability advocacy group, requiring the state to improve the way it treats inmates at Dade Correctional Institution, where Rainey died. A study by Governing magazine found that Florida ranked 49 of 51 in mental health expenditures per capita in 2010.
Posted By: Siebra Muhammad
Thursday, March 23rd 2017 at 2:24PM
You can also
here to view all posts by this author...