Florida prosecutors say they found no evidence of a crime in the death of an African-American schizophrenic inmate who was left in a hot shower for almost two hours. Instead of dying from serious burns, officials claim that his death was linked to undiagnosed heart disease.
According to The Miami New Times on June 23, 2012, Darren Rainey was arrested for cocaine possession and brought to the Dade Correctional Institution. For punishment for not wanting to shower after he defecated himself, it was believed the correctional officers—John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — threw the mentally ill man into a scolding hot shower for two hours.
The newspaper wrote that witnesses said that they could hear Rainey, 50, screaming “Please take me out! I can’t take it anymore!” and kicking the shower door.
Inmates also said that the prison guards laughed at Rainey and shouted “Is it hot enough?”
However the officers claimed they checked on Rainey every half an hour and that he was fine.
According to a nurse on the scene, after Rainey’s was found in the shower dead, 90 percent of his body was covered in burns and that his “lobster” skin fell off at the touch.
However, in a lengthy memo issued on Friday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle surprisingly announced that her office will not be filing murder or manslaughter charges against the correctional officers due to lack of evidence. In addition, they also deemed any inmate testimony as unreliable.
“The evidence fails to show that any correctional officer acted in reckless disregard of Rainey’s life,” the office wrote.
The medical examiner, Emma Lew, ruled Rainey’s death as an “accident” and attributed it to a combination of his schizophrenia, heart disease and confinement in the small shower space, the New York Daily News noted.
“It is not substantiated that the temperatures inside the shower room were excessively high,” Lew wrote.
It’s important to note that there is no way to re-examine Rainey’s body or counter Lew’s findings because he was quickly cremated after his death.
In the end, prosecutors strongly believe that “placing an inmate who has defecated upon himself in a shower to decontaminate himself is not conduct that is criminally reckless. There was no evidence of any intent to harm Rainey.”
The Daily Mail wrote that an attorney for Rainey’s family, Milton Grimes, said in a statement that the family is “disappointed and heartbroken” that no charges will be brought.
“This is not justice for Darren, for his family, nor for the mentally ill who have been subject to similar abuse and mistreatment,” Grimes said.
Grimes also told the The Miami Herald: “We are appalled that the state attorney did not look deeper into this case and see the criminality of the people who were involved.”
It’s no secret that Dade Correctional Institution doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to the treatment of their inmates.
As Think Progress recently pointed out, in a 2017 investigative report,The Miami Herald dubbed it “the deadliest prison in Florida.” Reporters wrote that in 2016 alone, 16 inmates died while in custody with 356 inmates dying in custody through out the state.
A federal probe into abuse in Florida prisons is currently pending.