MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The State Attorney will not file any criminal charges in the controversial death of a mentally-ill prison inmate.
The long-awaited report by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office was released nearly five years after the death of Darren Rainey. The office had to decide whether corrections officers committed any crimes in connection to his 2012 death.
The report, released Friday, says the “facts and evidence in this case do not meet the required elements for the filing of any criminal charge. Therefore, none of the correctional officers at Dade C.I. are criminally responsible for the death of inmate Rainey. Based upon the foregoing, we close the investigation without filing any criminal charges.”
Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey’s family, disagrees with the conclusion.
“It’s possible that Mr. Rainey fell out in the shower, had a seizure in the shower or a number of things,” said Grimes. “When you combine the heat of the shower and the medication he was on. He should have been under supervision the entire time he was in the shower.”
It was alleged that Rainey died after being locked in a steaming hot shower at the Dade Correctional Institution.
He claimed 50-year-old Rainey was brought to a particular shower stall from a different wing of the prison. That wing had its own showers but apparently not like the one Rainey was escorted to the night he died. Hempstead said he believed the shower was rigged to be controlled by staff on the outside with temperatures reportedly able to reach temperatures of 180 degrees.
Hempstead said he recalled Rainey repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry I can’t take it no more. I won’t do it again.”
Hempstead went on, “And he continued to restate those words and then the kicking started slowing down and then at 9:30 it sounded like he hit the wall and then his body fell. And then there was no more yelling.”
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office rejected Hempstead’s testimony and statements calling it “unreliable” and “not credible.”
“It is apparent to us that in many critical and crucial areas, Hempstead did not seem to have an opportunity to see and know the things about which he testified; he did not seem to have an accurate memory; he has been convicted of a felony, and lastly, his testimony was not consistent with the other testimony and other reliable and undisputed evidence in the case. For these reasons, Hempstead’s testimony is inherently unreliable and therefore not credible,” the report states.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office released surveillance video of that night, saying Hempstead’s cell was covered up from the inside, indicating he may not have been able to see anything he claimed he saw. (Keep an eye on the right side of the video below at 8:09:01 p.m.)
A guard had put Rainey in the shower after he had smeared feces on himself and other parts of his cell, according to the report. He was left alone in the shower around 7:30 p.m. Another guard checked on him at 9 p.m. and said he was still standing in the shower but outside the stream of water. A half hour later, another guard went to check on him in the shower and found him “lying face up on the shower floor.” The report states, the officer determined that Rainey was unresponsive and did not appear to be breathing. Rainey was taken out of the shower where they attempted “life-saving measures” and later declared dead.
A Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, completed back in 2016, concluded that Rainey’s death was an accident, saying he died of schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement inside the shower room.”
“There was no evidence of any intent to harm Rainey, only for him to wash off the feces he had smeared on his body. The appropriate manner of death is accident,” the Medical Examiner’s report reads.
The report stated the 50-year-old did not suffer any burns on his body or any obvious trauma.
Grimes disagrees with that finding.
“I’m looking at the body of this young man and something happened to grossly disfigure his body and cause severe damage too,” he said. “I would like to see the officers prosecuted for a lack of providing care and attention to this man.”
Investigators could not conclude if the shower was excessively hot the day Rainey collapsed. But, according to the State Attorney report, a safety officer of the prison tested the water from the same shower two days after Rainey’s death using a meat thermometer.
“She placed thermometer probe under the running hot water for approximately one minute, and the thermometer read 160 degrees Fahrenheit,” the report states.
Later that same day, she tested the water again and it read 125 degrees Fahrenheit, the report says. According to that same officer, the water was not to exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Three days after Rainey’s death, the same safety officer sent follow-up emails advising of the temperature readings. She requested work orders and “warned staff not to use that shower,” the report says.
The report also states that nurses who have worked at the prison stated that they never treated an inmate who complained or needed treatment for burns from a hot shower. Also, a majority of inmates told investigators “they had no knowledge about that shower being used to discipline or to torture inmates.”
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones released a statement on the release of the report.
“For nearly five years, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) has worked with the Miami-Dade Police Department, Florida Department of law Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine the facts and bring closure to the death investigation of Darren Rainey. Every inmate deserves a comprehensive review and investigation and we thank our law enforcement partners and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for their hard work throughout this process. FDC remains laser-focused on implementing reforms that enhance treatment for inmates with mental illness and ensure proper care for all in our custody and we will continue to integrate services which ensure these inmates successfully re-enter society and lead crime-free lives upon release.”
The department also included information on the mental health reforms they have taken with the help of Gov. Rick Scott.