Local Democrats seem to have made their opinion very clear: They want Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the county's top prosecutor, to resign over her decision not to charge four state prison guards who oversaw the death of Darren Rainey, a black, schizophrenic inmate who some witnesses said was scalded to death inside a burning-hot prison shower.
The Dems actually voted twice on the measure after hearing Rundle and her staff argue in person about why they declined charges in the Rainey case. The first vote passed with flying colors — though narrowly lacked a quorum — and the second passed last week with a single dissenting voice vote. Rundle's own party really wants her to step down.
But that's not how Rundle sees it. In a weekend interview with Local 10's Michael Putney, Rundle claimed the Dems' long, methodical voting process doesn't represent the local party's actual views.
"I do not believe the voice vote... accurately reflects the opinions of the party as a whole or of the people I serve," she said in a comment sent to Putney, her first public comments about the vote. "Some do not accept the medical examiner's findings in the Rainey case, concluding that his death was accidental and there were no burns on his body. This forensic pathologist's findings make my case unprosecutable."
But that's the same argument Miami-Dade Democrats rejected after hearing it from Rundle in person.
Her hometown party first floated the idea of asking her to resign in April, when party Chair Juan Cuba asked local civil rights attorney Erica Selig to draft the resolution. Once Rundle got wind that her own party was about to pass a no-confidence vote, she requested the chance to meet with multiple party groups.
At a May 30 meeting of the entire Democratic Executive Committee, Rundle and Assistant State Attorneys Kathleen Hoague, Don Horn, and Jose Arrojo relitigated the Rainey case in front of more than 120 people. Rundle tried to defend her extremely lax record on police-brutality issues by claiming she had "convicted" more than 300 officers in her 24-year tenure — but the Miami Herald later outed this statement as a lie. Rundle, a seasoned prosecutor, had apparently "confused" the terms "convicted" and "prosecuted" and has in fact convicted only an estimated "handful" of officers for wrongdoing. She has never charged a cop for an on-duty killing since taking over for Janet Reno in 1993, but has run for reelection largely unopposed.
The Herald also poked sizable holes in her defense of the Rainey case. Rundle has long claimed that the facts of the case rule out manslaughter charges, but her office could still have brought a culpable negligence case against the prison guards.
Rundle leaned on the findings of County Medical Examiner Emma Lew, who claimed there were no burns on Rainey's body when he died. But multiple independent examiners have cast serious doubt on Lew's findings, and other employees at Dade Correctional Institution have alleged employees covered up evidence.
The Herald also pointed out a score of other false or misleading claims she made about the case: For example, Hoague, the assistant, mentioned that Rainey did not have burns on his feet when he died and, therefore, the water could not have been scalding-hot. But, in fact, Rainey had worn shoes to the shower, and at least one shoe can be seen in an photograph of the crime scene.
Despite the fact that multiple members of the public held up signs that read "Black Lives Matter" and "Resign!" as Rundle spoke, the Dade Dems were unable to muster a voting quorum of members that night and could not pass the measure. It sat for another month.
Selig now reading from text of resolution asking Rundle to resign. Has not been voted on/approved by committee. pic.twitter.com/HryHeh0OD4— Jerry Iannelli (@jerryiannelli) May 31, 2017
In the meantime, several other disturbing stories about Rundle broke.
After the Herald noted Rundle's series of lies to the Democrats, local journalist and gadfly Grant Stern also found, through a records request, that Rundle had been blocking her critics on social media in a possible First Amendment violation. Stern shared his records with New Times, and Rundle's office unblocked the list within a week. Records also showed that her office was keeping tabs on documentary filmmaker Billy Corben, who has long been critical of her office's reluctance to prosecute cops and corrupt politicians.
Corben isn't Rundle's only critic: A New Times probe published earlier this month showed that her office routinely sits on investigations into shootings by cops for years, imperiling families' chances to file civil rights lawsuits against local cops. Her office is still "investigating" shootings that are in some cases six, seven, eight, or nine years old. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful-death suit in Florida is only two years, but it's nearly impossible to proceed with a lawsuit unless a local prosecutor first closes his or her investigation into the case.
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Last Tuesday night, the Miami-Dade Democrats finally gathered a voting quorum and passed the resolution. Rundle had floated the idea of running for higher office, perhaps governor, according to Politico. But the resolution hurts her chances moving forward.
The resolution, as passed, "urges Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to resign from office if she cannot pursue justice for all victims of crime, including the most vulnerable. The Miami-Dade DEC strongly condemns the State Attorney's Office's decision not to bring charges against the officers who locked Mr. Rainey in a hot shower for two hours resulting in his death, and the jail's supervisors, who failed to report the crime."
But despite all the hoops the local Democrats jumped through to pass that resolution, Rundle argues it doesn't really count.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the TV journalist Rundle provided a statement to about the Democrat's vote.