A civil rights group is growing more insistent in its calls for a federal inquiry after a medical examiner ruled the death of an inmate locked in a scalding shower for two hours by prison guards an accident, The Guardian reports.
Darren Rainey, an inmate at Florida's Dade Correctional Institution, died in June 2012 after he was put in a tiny cubicle in the psychiatric unit, with jailers controlling the water temperature from outside. Several inmates have said that Rainey, who had schizophrenia, could be heard screaming to be let out.
Another inmate said that after Rainey died, he had to scrape off chunks of the dead prisoner's burned skin from the floor of the cubicle.
However, according to The Guardian, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department has ruled that there were no burns found on the 50-year-old Rainey's body and that his death was instead caused by complications stemming from his mental illness and heart disease.
The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, isn't buying it.
Howard Simon, executive director of the chapter, said it "defies belief" that Rainey died by accident, The Guardian reports.
"To accept the medical examiner's conclusion, you have to believe that he accidentally locked himself in a shower, then turned up the water temperature to 180 degrees, accidentally boiled himself to death and all the while he was screaming for help," Simon told The Guardian. "That doesn't sound to me much like an accident."
Rainey's death did prompt an investigation into alleged abuse at the correctional facility. In 2014 the warden, Jerry Cummins, was fired, and two officers who were on duty at the time of Rainey's death resigned.
Still, with the autopsy report out, the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney has to decide if any criminal charges will be brought against any of the prison officers. However, Simon says he has little hope and has renewed demands made by the ACLU and other civil rights groups for a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to The Guardian, department officials confirmed there was an "ongoing criminal investigation" into Rainey's death last March, but Simon says that since then, there have been no formal developments.
"There needs to be an independent assessment," Simon said. "The final autopsy by the medical examiner needs to be released and subjected to an independent assessment, and ultimately you need the federal government in here to analyze what went wrong.
"The key word is 'independent.' The system here is that there's too much of a history of protecting their own. It may be that there was a homicide here," he said.
Rainey was put in the shower after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, the report notes.
There were no thermal injuries or burns, the autopsy indicates, according to reports. The alleged melting off of the inmate's skin was reportedly explained by "slippage," which is caused by extended exposure to water and the warm, damp environment of the shower cubicle, The Guardian reports.
However, according to The Guardian, there were also claims that Rainey's body temperature was 102 degrees, almost 4 degrees above normal, when staff attempted to administer CPR. And almost 12 hours after his death, Rainey's body temperature was still around 94 degrees.
Read more at The Guardian.