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Today in the Criminal Injustice System

[ 86 ] March 18, 2017 |

blacklivesmatter

Another day, more police officers getting off scot free after the wanton murder of African-Americans.

On June 23, 2012, Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic man serving time for cocaine possession, was thrown into a prison shower at the Dade Correctional Institution. The water was turned up top 180 degrees — hot enough to steep tea or cook Ramen noodles.

As punishment, four corrections officers — John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — kept Rainey in that shower for two full hours. Rainey was heard screaming “Please take me out! I can’t take it anymore!” and kicking the shower door. Inmates said prison guards laughed at Rainey and shouted “Is it hot enough?”

Rainey died inside that shower. He was found crumpled on the floor. When his body was pulled out, nurses said there were burns on 90 percent of his body. A nurse said his body temperature was too high to register with a thermometer. And his skin fell off at the touch.

But in an unconscionable decision, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office announced Friday that the four guards who oversaw what amounted to a medieval-era boiling will not be charged with a crime.

“The shower was itself neither dangerous nor unsafe,’’ the report says. “The evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff.’’

What is there even to say at this point?

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  1. Lord Jesus Perm says:

    “Protesting won’t change any minds!”
    – A concerned bigot-ass citizen

    • Lord Jesus Perm says:

      More info:

      Rundle took over as Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor in the 1990s, after then-State Attorney Janet Reno left to join the Bill Clinton administration. She has remained the state attorney every since. In that time, she has never charged a Miami police officer for an on-duty shooting.

      It’s important to note that all Rundle had to do to show that she cared was to charge the prison guards with a crime. It is up to a jury to assess guilt. Despite the fact that a man died in a shower, and that multiple witnesses said they saw burns on his body and heard screaming, Rundle didn’t think there was enough evidence to bring criminal charges.

      Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown spoke to multiple witnesses, jail inmates, and staff members, who said the showers were routinely used to scald inmates who acted out or upset the guards. Brown led a 2015 investigative series into abuses at Miami prisons. That series led to lawsuits, firings, rule-changes, and legislative hearings. But Rundle hasn’t filed criminal charges.

      Emphasis mine.

    • socraticsilence says:

      The danger in that argument is that if you make it long enough and your opposition might agree with you….

    • The Lorax says:

      Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown spoke to multiple witnesses, jail inmates, and staff members, who said the showers were routinely used to scald inmates who acted out or upset the guards. Brown led a 2015 investigative series into abuses at Miami prisons. That series led to lawsuits, firings, rule-changes, and legislative hearings. But Rundle hasn’t filed criminal charges.

      This was complicated, however, by the fact that Rainey’s family members say they were pressured to rapidly cremate his body. If further evidence of a murder existed, it has long been burnt to ashes.

  2. Tom in BK says:

    What do you even say in this situation? It’s abhorrent and evil. But yeah, Jeff Sessions is the guy to investigate these people. Fucking right.

    • JdLaverty says:

      And prosecutors are only part of the problem. Even in the rare instance that murdering coppers wind up on trial it seems like they usually get a pass. Daniel Pantaleo and a bunch of other thugs choking out Eric Garner on camera? Walked. Michael Slager capping a dude from behind then planting evidence to fake a struggle (all on video)? Walked. Every fucking time I mean I literally cannot fathom what possible excuse a juror could make for voting to acquit. What exactly does a cop have to do in order to be convicted of murder? Seriously?

  3. Gregor Sansa says:

    Fuck. This is not the first place I see this, and still, fuck. Speechless. Fuck.

    I don’t live in Dade, but if I did, I’d be seriously considering applying my knowledge of Molotov cocktails to unoccupied cop cars. Boiling a guy alive, this is literally as barbaric as it gets, and if there aren’t legal consequences for that, then there have to be other consequences.

    • Tom in BK says:

      When Trump got elected I half-jokingly texted my brother to get some guns.

      Now I’m not so sure how joking that was.

      • Snarki, child of Loki says:

        The path to law enforcement accountability seems to have narrowed down to where it has to fit through the barrel of a sniper rifle.

        So, yeah.

      • rea says:

        The problem with getting a gun is, if you have a gun, they can shoot you. See the case I linked above.

        • Colin Day says:

          Good to know that the police don’t shoot unarmed people.

          • rea says:

            Oh, they do shoot unarmed people, but having a gun (or something like one) gives them an excuse. Like the little boy in Cleveland with the toy gun or the guy in the Walmart with the BB gun, or the driver in Minnesota with the concealed carry permit . . .

        • Tom in BK says:

          I honestly don’t have any desire for a firearm that’s not, like, a rifle or a shotgun. It’s fun to go skeet shooting, and that’s about the extent of my interest in guns.

          I’d rather get shot by the cops than have them burn me alive, though. (I know this is hyperbolic for most people, but given the story in question…)

  4. efgoldman says:

    yeah, Jeff Sessions is the guy to investigate these people. Fucking right.

    I’m sure the Civil Rights division will get right on it….
    Right after they do their primary job of cracking down on reverse discrimination against oppressed white people.

  5. Hogan says:

    There’s always that classic, “Fuck Tha Police.” Never seems to get old.

    • DrDick says:

      “Cop Killer” gets more and more appropriate.

      • Q.E.Dumbass says:

        Also: Big L’s “The Enemy” + “Fed Up Wit the Bullshit;” Cypress Hill’s “Pigs” and “Looking Thru the Eye of a Pig;” J Dilla’s “Fuck Tha Police;” 2Pac’s “Trapped;” KRS-One’s “Sound of tha Police;” Jeru the Damaja’s “Invasion;” Main Source’s “Just Another Friendly Game of Baseball;” and O.C.’s “Constables.”

  6. gyrfalcon says:

    Miami-Dade County is expected to officialy update its coroner’s instructions to include “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” as a legitimate entry under “Cause of Death” by October 2018 at the latest.

  7. NewishLawyer says:

    I don’t remember the context and it might have been here but I read someone describe the U.S. as the country of “institutionalized rebellion.” I.e. we like the breaking of procedure if it means getting the “bad guys” a la Dirty Harry but for all of our talk of liberty and freedom, we generally don’t like people to go off the beaten path too much. It is often hard to tell what many Americans mean when they profess a love of freedom and liberty.

    But we also have a horrible understanding of mental illness and who knows what can change that.

    • eh says:

      “Getting the bad guys” is part of the identity of US law enforcement because its origins are in pursuing those they considered to be savages. This mental model is required for its continued operation.

    • rm says:

      The new standard that lethal force is justified if an officer feels a little bit afraid or can imagine being attacked at all means that being mentally ill in public is a capital crime. Or in your own home if you call 911 for a medical crisis and the cop shoots your ill family member instead.

  8. Dilan Esper says:

    RIP Chuck Berry.

  9. Bruce B. says:

    There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined. But the Penal Code makes the convenient distinction of premeditation. We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose—even for transforming murderers into judges.

    Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, would kill everybody on earth in order to possess Cathy, but it would never occur to him to say that murder is reasonable or theoretically defensible. He would commit it, and there his convictions end. This implies the power of love, and also strength of character. Since intense love is rare, murder remains an exception and preserves its aspect of infraction. But as soon as a man, through lack of character, takes refuge in doctrine, as soon as crime reasons about itself, it multiplies like reason itself and assumes all the aspects of the syllogism. Once crime was as solitary as a cry of protest; now it is as universal as science. Yesterday it was put on trial; today it determines the law.

    – Albert Camus, The Rebel

  10. DrDick says:

    I think I may cold cock the next person I hear say “Blue lives matter.

  11. Abbey Bartlet says:

    And these weren’t even fucking cops.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Prison personnel? Probably want-to-be cops.

      Just like sheriff’s deputies want to be staties.
      And Staties want to be Marine Recon.

      • JR in WV says:

        “And Staties want to be Marine Recon.”

        They say they would like to be Marine Recon, they may even believe it. But really, being Marine Recon is actually dangerous, unlike being a cop, which everyone pretends in dangerous.

        More firemen die on duty. Hell, timber cutters and construction workers die more often than cops. Not that I want to be a cop. Nope.

        Nor do State cops really want to be in the Marines.

    • Gareth says:

      It is significant that they were prison guards – the environment they work in is completely different. You could even say that the problem with cops is that they think they’re prison guards, just in an inside-out prison.

      • mojrim says:

        I think you’ve hit it there. Like many awful things this trend began in LA in the 50’s. We now have a thoroughly militarized force that sees itself as ‘managing’ certain populations which have so far avoided prison.

  12. Nick never Nick says:

    It’s decisions like this that really show the deep strain of authoritarianism running through American society. Everything about this suggests an unease with someone in authority being made to pay: the fact that the decision to prosecute is apparently made by a single person, with no appeal or institutional check; the fact that the individual in question actually feels comfortable announcing this decision; the fact that multiple official and unofficial institutions don’t erupt with outrage; the fact that the people who did it felt comfortable doing it — these are all indications of a system that can’t hold people to account, run by people who don’t expect people to be held to account, with peripheral outrage from people who know that no one will be held to account.

    There have been atrocities in the Canadian penal system — but the system’s ability to follow up on these is much stronger, and there is a broad agreement across political parties that official behaviour must be held to guidelines. Prosecutors are far more independent of police and other authorities, and can be very stubborn at prosecuting cases of violence. In this case, where a vulnerable person was tortured to death, the outrage would be universal and sustained. The fact that in America it’s not says a great deal about Americans.

    • J. Otto Pohl says:

      Part of this is population size. Other large countries even democratic ones like India or Nigeria tend to act in the same manner as the US. Not sure if Russia is still considered democratic, but an argument could be made that it was during the first and second Chechen wars which also saw similar behavior.

    • los says:

      Nick never Nick says:

      indications of a system that can’t hold people to account, run by people who don’t expect people to be held to account, with peripheral outrage from people who know that no one will be held to account.

      uh oh…

      • Nick never Nick says:

        Much as I love and cherish LGM, I think few of us here would argue it treads the halls of power . . .

        • Schadenboner says:

          I would actually like to see web browsing records for the White House and the House/Senate majority/minority leader offices, just to know who they’re reading.

          I wonder if that’s FOIA-able…

      • Morse Code for J says:

        I know that no one will be held to account, if by that you mean prosecuted. It doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it, or any other unjustifiable homicide by law enforcement officers for which prosecutors work to absolve them.

        Blaming our love of authoritarianism misses the more significant racial aspect here, without which this result would have been much less likely. The deceased was black and a convicted felon. And if you are an American who is either happy or noncommittal about this result, that’s the end of your analysis.

        • rm says:

          The racism aspect is crucial, but so is the fact that the victim suffered from schizophrenia.

        • Nick never Nick says:

          Fair enough, but at the same time, blaming racism misses the authoritarianism. Arguing that one of the other is critical is a mug’s game, and in my opinion, is only useful as a tactical question. They’re obviously deeply intertwined.

  13. Warren Terra says:

    The evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff

    How does the judge write sh!t like this? They parboiled him, as he begged for mercy, for two hours, literally turning him into stew – without grossly disregarding his well-being? What would have been gross disregard? Sauteing him? Adding too much garlic?

    Also: I, a non-lawyer, have heard that appeals courts are supposed to handle disputes of law rather than fact, but isn’t this judgment so blatantly counterfactual as to be an exception, and worth appealing?

    • rea says:

      I, a non-lawyer, have heard that appeals courts are supposed to handle disputes of law rather than fact, but isn’t this judgment so blatantly counterfactual as to be an exception, and worth appealing?

      There has been no court ruling to appeal. The prosecutor has discretion, and the only check on the discretion is the voters. If she charges someone without evidence, the Court can do something about it, but nothing other than the possibility of losing an election can force her to bring a charge if she doesn’t want to. This actually usually works out well, like Obama not wanting to deport people who had not committed crimes in the US, but not if the perpetrator is a cop.

      • Warren Terra says:

        Oh, that’s the prosecutor – I thought it was the judge.

        This prosecutor should be out of a job immediately. Heck, I’d be fine with them standing trial for conspiracy to murder; their giving their retroactive blessing to this murder by torture amounts to being a co-conspirator in my book.

        • In international law, there is no prescription for the crime of torture. Isn’t the USA party to the UN convention? Perhaps the perps can be prosecuted later. The thing is to lock down the witness statements.

          • Redwood Rhiadra says:

            There are no international courts which can try such cases. Countries are individually responsible for their own enforcement of the human rights conventions.

  14. solidcitizen says:

    When I was done reading this story, my reaction was to repeatedly say, “That’s not true. That’s not true.”

    This is some of that fake news I keep hearing about, right?

    Christ. Christ.

  15. Mart says:

    Being in St. Louis I still get in arguments over Mike Brown’s murder. White people have no problem with a cop being judge, jury, and executioner. The prosecutor for STL County is a real peach too. Google Raw Story / Witness 40. Just disgusting. The prosecutor actually cited the ramblings of this repeatedly delusional witness 40 in his press conference saying there would be no indictment; setting off a second round of riots.

    • los says:

      As I recall, woman who had earlier been literally brain damaged in a car accident.
      She claimed she was in locations in which surveillance cameras did not record her.. changed her “testimony”.
      Assuming she wouldn’t have provided “false witness” if not brain damaged, she is somewhat a victim herself.

      The government attorney acted irresponsibly, IMO.

  16. e.a.foster says:

    it sounds like negligent homicide to me, but hey its Florida and you can hardly tell what they do there.

    Welcome to America. Murdered for being black is still happening. Lets hope the man’s family sues those responsible. perhaps the state of Florida ought to be hauled before the Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity. If this happened in another country there would be howls from the American press about the terrible treatment of prisoners. In the U.S.A. it just gets a pass. OMG how disgusting that state is.

  17. Sebastian_h says:

    “The shower was itself neither dangerous nor unsafe”

    W

    T

    F

    I know prosecutorial discretion is preeminent, but what about going through the bar disciplinary process? That is just an absolute lie told by a court officer during the performance of their legal duties.

    • los says:

      It wouldn’t surprise me if prison showers tend to embed a fixed nozzle/spray into the wall, and probably the spray pattern in this shower is too wide to stand aside.

      the text mentioned that the ‘officers’ have boiled other prisoners (though not fatally, it seems)

      • Just_Dropping_By says:

        In a products liability context, you could most certainly argue that having a hot water system for a shower that can get up to 180 degrees is “unsafe” though. Household systems usually recommend 120 for regular use and to not exceed 140.

  18. Murc says:

    You know, I’m not generally a violent, murderous individual, but in this specific situation I would say that vigilante justice is 100% justified.

  19. los says:

    1/4 of the four officers is a woman…

    Williams

    (Yeah 4 is too small a “sample”. Otherwise, blah blah… social data on gender of perpetrators of violence)

  20. vic rattlehead says:

    I’m sure our new AG will get right on it.

  21. Joe_JP says:

    The author of that piece has a way with language.

    A local story noted “U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was one of the few prosecutors in the country who took abuse of inmates seriously.”

    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/preet-bharara-legacy-jail-justice-article-1.2999321

    Sometimes, what happens in “that shower” matters to people on the outside enough for some justice to be done. Other times, not so much.

  22. Darkrose says:

    I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep tonight. I wonder how this prosecutor can. I don’t wonder if the four guards who tortured a man to death for TWO FUCKING HOURS can sleep, because if they were not evil, then they wouldn’t have done this in the first place.

    I wish I believed in hell, because clearly, nothing remotely resembling justice will be done here.

    I don’t want to hear jack shit about “radical Islamic terrorism” or white people bitching and moaning about Sharia law and beheadings. There is no difference between those four guards and ISIS, but terrorism and torture are A-OK if you’re white. This country is broken.

    • Just_Dropping_By says:

      There is no difference between those four guards and ISIS, but terrorism and torture are A-OK if you’re white.

      I can’t immediately find any pictures for the guards, but the names “John Fan Fan,” “Cornelius Thompson,” and “Edwina Williams” don’t scream, “white privilege” to me.

      • DrDick says:

        But it most certainly does scream LEA privilege, which is the issue here.

        • Just_Dropping_By says:

          I would agree; Darkrose was the one making it a racial issue.

          • Darkrose says:

            I made an assumption; I may have been wrong in that. The fact that the dead guy is black, however, indicates that I’m not the one making it a racial issue, unless you want to tell me that they’d have boiled a white guy to death. But I guess all lives matter, and I’m sure you must feel good about yourself for your smug reply.

      • pseudalicious says:

        What is institutional racism and ableism? What is nuance in understanding the way white supremacy plays out even in the hands of non-whites? We just don’t know!

  23. Morse Code for J says:

    The problems begin with the ME’s report. She blames the death on his schizophrenia and heart disease, making a cardiac arrest unusually likely in the context of a prolonged hot shower. Not kidding. Contrary to the nurses’ reporting burns on 90% of the body, she reported no burns anywhere on his body, even though his flesh was sliding off his bones like a rack of barbecue ribs (apparently the schizophrenia makes him more susceptible to “skin slippage” too). The captain of the guard tested the water temperature in that shower two days after the event and the meat thermometer in the cup read 160 degrees F. A couple of days later, it read 125 degrees F. Huh. Yeah, I guess I’d want him cremated in a hurry too, if I were the state.

    You can only prosecute the case your facts allow you to prosecute, and if the ME’s saying there were no burns, that’s a hard wall to climb if she doesn’t back off it. Especially when the body’s been destroyed. I’m not saying that DA Rundle is entirely blameless, just that it can be spread around more widely than her.

  24. Darkrose says:

    I still can’t get over this. I feel so utterly helpless. This is straight up Jim Crow era shit, and there’s nothing that can be done. No one will be held to account. Meanwhile, folks on the left are deeply concerned because Chelsea Clinton got a book deal. I just can’t anymore.

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