It’s been well over three years since inmate Darren Rainey died at the Dade Correctional Institution after he was placed in a scalding shower for hours by guards — and still no final autopsy has been released. Why?
“It’s extraordinarily unusual for an autopsy to take this long — and if people are thinking ‘this is a cover-up,’ well, this is what happens when it takes this long.” That was the conclusion reached by one of the nation’s most eminent forensic pathologists, Dr. Michael Baden, in a recent interview with Herald reporter Julie Brown.
Cover-up is a serious accusation, but how else to explain the delay? Especially since this is just one more suspicious development in a chain of events that began with the death of Mr. Rainey on June 23, 2012 after he was locked inside a prison shower with an elevated water temperature for a prolonged period.
That includes an apparent finding of the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s office, leaked to the Herald, that Mr. Rainey died from complications of schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement’’ in the shower.
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It labeled the death, incredibly, “accidental.”
The dead man was a schizophrenic and had reportedly suffered some sort of psychotic episode that annoyed prison guards. But as Mr. Baden drily observed, “You don’t die from schizophrenia.” And was it an accident that he was locked inside the shower, where — as opposed to other shower stalls closer to his cell — he had no access to the controls? No. His jailers put him there, and they were the ones who controlled the water temperature.
Was it an accident that he was left in the shower for nearly two hours? That his screams for help went unanswered? That his skin was sliding off his body after he collapsed? That “visible trauma was noticed throughout the decedent’s body,” according to a report written one day after his death? Did anyone test the water temperature beforehand?
The Department of Corrections doesn’t seem interested in getting to this bottom of this, nor any other state or local official. Why not? Should being a schizophrenic who’s acting out in a prison result in death? Shouldn’t someone ask if abuse of prisoners takes place routinely in this prison, as inmates maintain?
Investigators say it’s notoriously difficult to determine criminal intent when probing prison deaths like that of Darren Rainey. But pretending nothing happened doesn’t meet the ends of justice. Instead of asking about intent, why not ask whether the death was avoidable? Whether it was senseless? If the answers are Yes, why did it happen?
Consider what happened in Charlotte County on Florida’s Gulf Coast after inmate Matthew Walker was found beaten to death with a crushed larynx in April 2014 in the state prison there. A grand jury issued a blistering report 15 months later saying the death following a melee with guards was the result of failures by prison staff. They also classified it as a homicide.
Fifteen months! Here, Darren Rainey has been dead over 43 months, and the final autopsy report is still withheld. Why the hold-up? Police in Miami-Dade County are still carrying it as an open investigation.
Now the U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly investigating the death of Mr. Rainey and other possible abuses at the jail. It’s about time someone did, because local officials, shamefully, have done little to nothing. If this isn’t a cover-up, why is it taking so long to get answers? This is a law-enforcement issue. Where are our law enforcers?