By Thomas Kennedy
Imagine being a prison inmate, jailed for drug possession charges, and being thrown into a scalding hot shower for hours that leads to a tortuous death. That’s what happened to Darren Rainey in June, 2012. Corrections officers locked Rainey, who suffered from schizophrenia, in the shower for two hours before he collapsed and died.
Earlier this month, prosecutors in Miami-Dade County found the officers committed no crime.
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the governmenrt from imposing cruel and unusual punishment for federal crimes. The amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
If boiling a man alive is not cruel and unusual punishment, then the moral compass of our society is seriously damaged. Residents in Miami-Dade County and across the country have been deeply disturbed that State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle decided not to press charges for the brutal death of Darren Rainey.
Rundle’s office released a 101-page report earlier this month which stated that Rainey’s death resulted from his schizophrenia and heart disease as opposed to the 109-degree temperature his body reached due to the boiling water he was exposed to. The report goes on to clear the guards responsible of any wrongdoing.
Refusing to charge the four prison guards who are responsible for throwing a black, schizophrenic inmate into a scalding hot shower for two hours, resulting in his death, is unacceptable and cannot be overlooked.
Rundle declined to bring charges after a controversial autopsy report that has been heavily criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, claimed that Rainey suffered from no burns on his body. A report by the Huffington Post found serious contradictions within the report.
The details in this case are gruesome and have shocked the community to its core. Testimony from inmates, nurses and a paramedic with the Miami-Dade Fire rescue state that Rainey suffered burns across 30% of his body and that his skin was peeling off when he was found dead in that shower.
Disturbing images show the severity of the wounds that Rainey suffered, as swaths of skin and layers are either missing, bunched up at the edges of wounds or hanging loosely at the edges of wounds. His burns are so severe in some cases that blood vessels are clearly visible and underlying tissue is exposed.
The brutality of the Rainey death and inaction by the State Attorney’s office has caught the attention of people of good will from all over the country, but here in Miami-Dade County, those of us familiar with Rundle’s record are unfortunately not surprised.
There is a pattern of behavior by Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Whether it was the killing of teenager Israel Hernandez at the hands of Miami Beach police who used a Taser on him for tagging a building with graffiti; the shooting of unarmed autistic caregiver Charles Kinsey by North Miami police; or the Redlands shootings, in which Miami-Dade Police Officers ambushed an allegedly armed mob and shot them, the State Attorney’s office seems to always find excuses to overlook and excuse instances of police brutality.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle has largely remained unscathed by her awful record. She has been in office since 1993 and usually runs unopposed for re-election. After decades of escaping accountability, it seems that Rundle has finally gone too far.
The issue of police brutality is a national scourge that we can end on a local level by electing government officials who respect the rule of law, force people in uniform to do the same and will prosecute them when they do not. We, as constituents, can hold Katherine Fernandez Rundle accountable for her failure to stand up for Miami-Dade residents who are victims of state-induced violence. It’s about time that we do.
Thomas Kennedy is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change.