Protesters to Demand Rundle's Resignation Today Over Darren Rainey's Death

Darren Rainey and Kathern Fernandez Rundle
Darren Rainey and Kathern Fernandez Rundle Miami-Dade County Department of Corrections/Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami's top prosecutor, hasn't been the subject of much public outrage during her 24 years in office. Despite wielding huge power over Miami's criminal justice system, she's largely flown below the radar despite having never charged a cop for an on-duty killing since she took over the job for Janet Reno in 1993.

But the case of Darren Rainey has continued to dog Rundle. Two weeks ago, the state attorney declined to charge four prison guards who kept Rainey, a 50-year-old inmate with schizophrenia, in a shower that some say was as hot as 180 degrees for two hours, eventually killing him. Now, after weeks of national backlash, a group will demonstrate outside Rundle's office today to demand her resignation.

"This is beyond murder, this is beyond injustice," the protesters wrote online. "This is the most horrific state-sanctioned human rights abuse of an American citizen on American soil that I have heard of in my lifetime."

Rundle has received loud criticism for her decision not to charge the four guards who oversaw Rainey's shower in 2012. Multiple inmates told Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown and New Yorker reporter Eyal Press that Rainey had been kept in a scalding-hot shower for close to two hours as punishment for having defecated in his cell. Witnesses say they heard Rainey screaming and kicking the door, trying to get out, while the guards taunted him. Rainey died inside the shower — and one inmate told the Herald he was forced to clean Rainey's burnt skin out of the stall the next day.

One therapist working at the prison, Harriet Krzykowski, told the Herald and the New Yorker that she believed the state tried to cover up Rainey's murder.

Brown's George Polk Award-winning series on abuse in Florida state prisons led to multiple resignations in the prison system, as well as rule changes. It even prodded Rundle to reopen the investigation into Rainey's case.

But earlier this month, the State Attorney's Office issued a 101-page report that labeled Rainey's death an accident due to a combination of "schizophrenia," heart trouble, and "confinement in the shower." She declined to file criminal charges against anyone involved.

Rundle's report took pains to discount the testimony of multiple witnesses: One of the key witnesses in the case, an inmate named Harold Hempstead, took detailed diary notes about the incident and encouraged other inmates to speak up. But Rundle's report found that Hempstead's details do not match video evidence taken the day of Rainey's death.

Multiple nurses reported that Rainey's body was covered in burns when it was pulled from the shower and that his skin fell off at the touch. However, the county medical examiner, Dr. Emma Lew, said the "skin slippage" seen was simply a natural side effect of body decomposition. But a nationally respected medical examiner from the New York state prison system disputed that idea to the Herald in 2016, claiming the sort of damage seen on Rainey's body would have been caused only by scalding water.

Rundle then spoke to New Times to defend her decision. She said investigators simply couldn't back up the reporting of the Herald or the New Yorker in a way that would stand up in court.

“Nobody can condone someone being thrown into a hot shower and killed,” Rundle said. “We read the same thing everyone else did, but it wasn't until we really investigated that we learned that is not what happened.”

She also made an appearance on news radio 610 WIOD, where host Fernand Amandi asked why the guards chose to keep Rainey inside the shower for close to two hours.

"That's a good question," Rundle responded.

Today's demonstration isn't the first time activists have taken to the streets to demand independent scrutiny of Rainey's death: In June 2016, "more than a dozen" activists, including former employees of Dade Correctional Institution, where Rainey died, held signs outside Rundle's office and demanded she charge the prison guards involved. At the time, Ed Griffifth, Rundle's spokesperson, told the Miami Herald that the investigation had taken multiple years in order to be more thorough.

"Justice delayed, justice denied," one sign countered.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.