Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has had a rough few weeks. She's likely about to face the toughest election opponent of her career in 2020. Last week, a scathing USA Today investigative report revealed her office seemed to be teaching its prosecutors when to avoid telling defendants they were arrested by cops with histories of lying.
And now, more than 200 people have signed a petition demanding that her office create a special unit dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cases involving police brutality, fatal police shootings, and other law enforcement misconduct. Activists with Real Justice PAC, a progressive grassroots organization, said yesterday evening they met with Rundle, discussed the issue, and delivered more than 200 signed petitions backing up their demands.
The activists also said they asked Rundle about her potential plans to end the use of cash bail, a system critics say needlessly forces the poor to sit in jail for extended periods of time, and to use more pretrial diversion services to keep nonviolent or low-level offenders out of the prison system.
"Many of these prosecutors have been in power for decades, perpetuating the practices that drive mass incarceration and injustice," Diana Davila, an organizer with the Real Justice PAC, said in a media release. "We want to empower volunteers to engage with their elected prosecutors and demand the reforms needed to transform the criminal justice system."
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Rundle's spokesperson, Ed Griffith, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. But as New Times has consistently reported, Rundle has never prosecuted an officer for an on-duty shooting death in her 26 years in office. She has charged only a single cop for firing his weapon on the job — former North Miami Police SWAT Officer Jonathan Aledda, who shot unarmed behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey in the leg in 2016. A jury convicted Aledda of culpable negligence this past June.
New Times has also reported on case after case in which officers appear to have committed criminal acts yet faced no charges from Rundle's office. In scores of cases, local cops have been repeatedly accused of perjury but faced no consequences from prosecutors. Rundle's office has been accused of leaving police brutality and shooting cases open for years, a practice that civil rights lawyers say empowers bad cops and prevents victims from filing lawsuits. And, most infamous, Rundle was internationally condemned in 2016 after her office declined to prosecute four prison guards involved in the death of Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic prisoner whom witnesses say died after prison guards placed him in a scalding-hot shower as punishment for defecating in his cell.
Politicians rarely hold seats for 26 years straight — let alone local prosecutors, who, by their nature, constantly make controversial decisions and are almost always subject to public scrutiny during heavily watched criminal cases. But Rundle has sat in office since 1993, and her critics maintain she has remained in power far past her expiration date. She has cruised to reelection every four years since she took over for former State Attorney Janet Reno, who left Miami that year to join President Bill Clinton's cabinet.
Lately, however, justice-reform advocates have been pushing veteran American Civil Liberties Union attorney and former prosecutor Melba Pearson to run for Rundle's seat in 2020. Seemingly in response, Rundle has launched a #KeepKathy2020 reelection website and social media campaign.