No matter what you say or do, this case is not going to go away. That you have tried so hard, in spite of so much conflicting evidence, to sweep this case under the rug, is beyond despicable.
Almost five years ago, Darren Rainey, a mentally ill black man serving a two-year prison sentence for drug possession, was locked in a shower by prison guards at Dade Correctional Institution in Florida after they said he defecated on himself in his cell. The water was allegedly turned up to a scalding 180 degrees and he was left in there for hours. He entered the shower at around 7:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead two hours later.
One inmate said he heard Rainey screaming, begging to be let out, and inmates said the shower was often used as a torture device. Multiple inmates have said that the shower was used against them. The water pressure, temperature, and the lock on the shower door were all controlled from the outside. The shower has long since been destroyed. Inmate testimony has been routinely dismissed and justice, of any kind, for Darren Rainey, has been delayed for years on end with no real explanation.
I first wrote about the death of Darren Rainey, and indeed the deaths of hundreds of people in Florida’s jails and prisons, over two years ago. All of the cases haunted me, but none more than what happened to Rainey. At numerous times since Darren Rainey’s death on June 23, 2012, it appeared that the State of Florida was bending over backwards to portray his death as an accident.
Dozens of guards and jail officials throughout the state had resigned in disgrace under several statewide investigations, but still no one has been held accountable for Darren Rainey’s death. That pattern continued Friday, when prosecutors released a report obtained by the Miami Herald concluding that Darren Rainey’s death was an accident blamed in part on undiagnosed heart disease — and that he suffered no burn injuries.
How is a man accidentally locked in a shower? How is a man who was accidentally locked in a shower by guards who are responsible for his safety and well-being then left there in the shower for nearly two hours? How is it that a prisoner locked in his cell heard the cries and pleas of a man accidentally locked in a shower and accidentally left there for two hours, but staff member after staff member say they heard nothing?
We could debate and wonder about all of this, but one horrific detail is not debatable. When Darren Rainey was removed from that shower, his skin was falling off of his body. This is not normal — particularly in light of the fact that “confinement in a shower” was ruled as one of the primary causes of his death.
The nurse on duty that night said Rainey’s temperature was so high that it could not be measured. The water temperature in the shower was later measured to be at least 160 degrees — when state law mandates 120 degrees as the highest available temperature allowed.
An inmate stated that he helped clean up chunks of Rainey’s skin from the shower the following morning. Another inmate committed suicide inside of this unit and left a note claiming widespread abuse by staff.
A medical examiner found that Rainey didn’t experience any burns or trauma while alive, and that his skin fell off after he died due to his body’s prolonged exposure to water and humidity in the shower, the Miami Herald reports.
That Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle saw all of this, and more, and determined that nobody would be held account for the death of Darren Rainey is a scandal. It’s one thing to make the argument that first-degree murder was not the appropriate charge and something altogether different for no charges whatsoever to be issued. How in the hell were they, at the very least, not negligent?
That Darren Rainey died on their watch, in a shower that they put him in for hours on end, with skin falling off of his body, and they didn’t even lose their jobs or law enforcement certification, and that many of these staff members are still working in law enforcement is incomprehensible. What worse could happen on a staff member’s watch in Florida than this?
My greater point is this — we appear to have a conspiracy at play here. The conspiracy is one designed to protect law enforcement officers implicated of egregious misconduct at all costs. In some ways, the Miami-Dade State Attorney, in a case that carried on for five years, would have to come to the conclusion that the entire thing was an unfortunate accident. Because, if it was a crime, how could she ever explain or justify the case dragging on for five years with no punishment whatsoever?
We should all be disgusted not only by the death of Darren Rainey but by the failure of the State of Florida to protect him and hold those who were responsible for protecting him accountable for their misconduct. How can our nation ever expect to hold any other country accountable for human rights abuses if we don’t hold people accountable for such abuses at home?