Rundle Opens Hotline to Explain Why She Didn't Charge Guards Who Scalded Man to Death

Miami-Dade County Department of Corrections/Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami's lead prosecutor, waited until late Friday afternoon to announce she wouldn't charge four state prison guards who threw a black inmate with schizophrenia into a scalding-hot, 180-degree shower and left him there until he died. In media circles, the move is known as a "Friday news dump," meant to bury unsavory news over the weekend.

But Rundle's employees returned to work yesterday with a five-alarm fire on their hands. Miami Herald and New Times stories about the decision went viral over the weekend and had hit the Washington Post and New York Daily News by Monday morning.

Now, in an attempt to field a barrage of calls to her office, Rundle has opened a hotline to discuss her conduct in the Rainey case. Callers can dial 305-547-3300. Here are the details:
Rundle's spokesperson, Ed Griffith, didn't respond to a message from New Times about the hotline. But it's a fair bet that a flood of angry calls from around the nation necessitated the move.

The details of Rainey's death, which occurred in June 2012, are painful to read. For four years, Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown spoke to employees and inmates at Dade Correctional Institution who said Rainey was heard screaming to be let out of the shower and kicking the stall door. Those witnesses said Rainey's body was covered in burns when it was pulled from the tiny shower stall. A makeshift hose had been run from the utility closet to the shower, and tests conducted after Rainey's death showed that, if the guards cranked up the water heater, the stream ran at 180 degrees, which is hot enough to steep tea or cook noodles.

But Rundle's report instead leaned heavily on the medical examiner's autopsy report, which claimed Rainey's body did not have burns on it when it was pulled from the shower. Instead, medical examiner Dr. Emma Lew claimed the skin-peeling effect seen on Rainey's body was not due to burns from being boiled and/or steamed alive but instead natural body decomposition (though he had been dead only a few hours at that point).

The medical examiner's report was kept hidden for years until a copy was leaked to the public. After the leak, the executive director of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union said the report showed that an independent, federal investigation was necessary to determine whether Rainey was tortured.

A therapist who formerly worked at the jail, Harriet Krzykowski, told both the Herald and the New Yorker magazine that she believes evidence was tampered with to protect the guards. But Rundle's office did not interview Krzykowski during its four-year probe and claimed statements from the prison nurses and inmates were not reliable and could not be trusted.

Now that Rundle has opened a hotline, here are a few questions we'd like to have answered about the case:

1. Why haven't Rainey's autopsy photographs been released? Are the photographs consistent with the official medical examiner's report?

2. How long, typically, does it take for a body to develop "skin slippage" on its own, under average circumstances?

3. Why did it take four years to complete this investigation?

4. At least one former prison employee has said on the record, multiple times, that she believes evidence was tampered with to shield the prison guards involved. Do you believe any tampering occurred?

5. Why did nurses who examined Rainey's body say it was covered in burns? Why did Rainey's official autopsy report say his body did not have burns?

6. Why hasn't your office charged a police officer or prison guard for an on-duty killing in your 24 years in office?

7. If this crime had been carried out by civilians, and not state employees, in a private home, would your office have filed charges?