(Update: After this story was posted, Rundle responded as to why she didn’t press charges.)
On June 23, 2012, Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic who is serving time for possession of cocaine, was thrown into a prison shower at Dade Correctional Facility. The water has been turned 180 degrees – hot enough to brew tea or make ramen noodles.
As punishment, four correctional officers – John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clark, and Edwina Williams – kept Rainey in the shower for two full hours. Rainey screamed, “Please take me away! I can’t take it anymore! ” The prisoners said the guards laughed at Rainey and shouted, “Is it hot enough?” Rainey died in the shower. They found him crumpled on the floor. When his body was taken out, the nurses said that the burns covered 90 percent. The nurse said that his body temperature was too high to be measured with a thermometer, and his skin fell off from the touch.
But on Friday, the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Catherine Fernandez Rundle, in an unscrupulous ruling, announced that the four security guards who watched over what equated the Middle Ages would not be charged with the crime.
“The shower itself was neither dangerous nor unsafe,” the report says. “The evidence does not show that Rainey’s health was grossly ignored by the correctional staff.”
Rundle’s office announced the results of its investigation in a Friday afternoon roundup, which is commonly used by government officials to cover up unflattering news or information. Rundle’s office clearly would like this case to disappear over the weekend, but the facts are so inhuman that this decision should haunt the office forever.
Rundle took over as Miami-Dade’s chief prosecutor in the 1990s after Janet Reno left to join the Bill Clinton administration. Since then, Rundle has remained the state attorney. During this time, she has never charged a Miami police officer with shooting on duty.
It is important to note that all Rundle had to do to show that she was partial was to accuse the prison guards of a crime. The jury should assess the guilt. Despite the fact that the man died in the shower and several witnesses said they saw burns on his body and heard screams, Rundle did not believe that there was enough evidence to initiate a criminal case.
Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown spoke with several witnesses, inmates, and prison staff who said the shower was commonly used to scald inmates who acted or frustrated the guards. In 2015, Brown conducted a series of investigations into abuse in Miami’s prisons. This streak has led to lawsuits, layoffs, rule changes, and legislative hearings. But Rundle did not initiate criminal proceedings.
The New Yorker magazine published an investigation into Rainey’s death. The magazine detailed how the whistleblower, Harriet Krzykowski, was bullied, harassed, and forced into therapy after attempting to report abuse in prison.
In this story, the treatment of Rainey was called torture.
Rundle’s 72-page closure memo draws heavily on the autopsy report, which was heavily criticized by civil rights advocates. The report states that Rainey was not found with burns at the time of his death. Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the report, leaked to the media during the investigation, indicated a federal investigation was needed.
However, Randle’s office noted that one Miami-Dade County police officer said the nurses said Rainey had “red patches” on his body and that his skin did “slip” after he was pulled out of the shower. However, Rundle’s memo stated that the displacement could have been caused by “decomposition of the body,” not burns.
“In response to detective Sanchez’s specific questions regarding the burns, Dr. [Emma] Liu said that Rainey had not suffered any obvious external injuries and, in particular, had no thermal injuries (burns) of any kind,” the report said. He then adds that from 2012 to 2014, the cause of death was not determined.
However, this has been complicated by the fact that Rainey family members say they were forced to quickly cremate his body. If there was further evidence of the murder, it had long since burned to the ground.
One witness mentioned in the Herald and New Yorker articles, Harold Hempstead, was a prisoner serving time for robbery. Hempstead kept a diary and said he heard Rainey screaming.
But Rundle’s Friday note went to great lengths to disqualify Hempstead’s diary as inaccurate and unreliable. Several inmates told Rundle’s office they heard the screams, but the state attorney said the accounts were “inconsistent” and could not be trusted.
“Accordingly, and in conclusion, – wrote