Police Cleared in Death of Suspected Crab-Leg Thief

     WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – Police will not face charges after a mother of eight accused of stealing crab legs was found dead in her jail cell, New York’s top prosecutor said Thursday.
     Raynette Turner, 42, was found dead on July 27, three days after Mount Vernon police arrested the woman for allegedly stealing crab legs from a restaurant.
     Attorney General Eric Schneiderman quickly opened an investigation into Turner’s death, having been appointed one month earlier by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to study police killings of unarmed civilians.
     Announcing the conclusion of that probe Thursday outside his satellite office in Westchester, Schneiderman said his office “left no rock unturned,” and that the investigation involved testimony from 45 witnesses.
     “Her death was a tragedy,” the special prosecutor said, but “there is no criminal culpability in the death.”
     What investigators did find was that three days was too long to jail someone on a routine arrest.
     “There is really no good reason” why someone arrested for shoplifting would have to wait so long to be tried,” Schneiderman said.
     “She didn’t have to be in jail that long, but we didn’t find anything out of line,” he added.
     Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg led the special prosecutor’s investigation and attributing Turner’s death to an “enlarged heart” and “chronic drug use.”
     To make the case that there was “no indication of physical abuse,” Bragg showed reporters a slideshow of Turner’s movements during her three days in confinement.
     In addition to around-the-clock video surveillance of Turner’s time in custody, investigators also considered her autopsy report and more than 1,700 medical records.
     Mount Vernon police cooperated fully with the investigation, prosecutors added.
     Bragg said authorities did all they could to ensure her safety, checked on her every 15 minutes and took her word that she was fine even after seeing her “vomiting or wretching” repeatedly on video cameras.
     When she started to feel pains on the left of her body on her second day of incarceration, Turner asked to go the hospital, which was located a “block and a half away,” to get high blood pressure medications. Her request was granted, Schneiderman said.
     She met with a psychiatrist, received medication and was sent back to jail, where she kept throwing up.
     Bragg said Turner was brought out to be fingerprinted “unassisted,” slept “off and on” throughout the night, and kept vomiting.
     But she never asked to see a doctor from that point on, Bragg said.
     “There was no cause for concern,” he said, because she had insisted she was fine when pressed.
     At least 10 jail attendants gave Turner food, water and toilet paper, Bragg said.
     Turner was pronounced dead at 3:08 p.m. after she was found unresponsive in her cell.
     Among several recommendations Bragg had for the police involved in future cases, Bragg urged officials to their “failure of good recordkeeping.”
     Citing “clear errors” in the documentation of when Turner had lunch and when she changed cells, Bragg said the worker who made those log entries has since been disciplined.
     Bragg agreed that Turner should have been processed and released more quickly.
     He also urged the state’s lawmakers to look into the issue to curtail extended detention times in the future.
     “We hope that policy makers will take it up this session,” he said.
     Officials’ standards of care “do not rise to the level or are nowhere near” those to anything to justify accusing them of negligence or homicide, he added.

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