Schneiderman To Investigate Mt. Vernon Woman’s Death in Police Custody

NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman confirmed Monday he will launch a full-scale investigation into the death Raynette Turner, an African American mother of eight, who died last week while in the custody of the Mount Vernon Police Department. The probe will be the first since Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order last month requiring Schneiderman to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute police-involved deaths of unarmed civilians.

Turner, 42, died July 27 after spending the weekend in a holding cell awaiting arraignment on a shoplifting charge. Turner was found dead in her cell after she had vomited in a courthouse holding area while she was being readied for arraignment. She had spent two hours in a hospital the night before.

An autopsy was inconclusive.

“Ms. Turner’s death is a tragedy for her loved ones, and it raises questions not just from her family, but from her neighbors, elected officials, community members and the media – questions that deserve answers,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo cited the Turner case as the kind of situation that led him to sign his Executive Order last month because, in his view, the justice system must have the trust of community residents.

“With the Attorney General as special prosecutor leading an independent investigation, I believe that we can begin to restore trust, eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest, and let the community know, once and for all, that justice truly is blind,” said Cuomo.

The Westchester District Attorney’s Office issued a statement which in part read:

“We will work with the AG and his staff to ensure a smooth transition of this matter. From the outset the AG has been apprised of and fully briefed on the status of the investigation and going forward we will be available to assist the AG as appropriate.”

State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a candidate for Mayor of Mt. Vernon, expressed her confidence in Mr. Schneiderman saying, “With Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigating this unfortunate incident, I know that there will be no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of this tragic incident.”

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis voiced confidence the department followed the rules and did not contribute to the death.

“There’s always doubt, and that’s understandable,” Davis said. “It’s understandable to ask questions. But it’s not understandable to me to have a circus around her life.”

Davis opponent, Councilman and Mayoral candidate Richard Thomas called for an independent investigation by the US Department of Justice. “The pattern and practice of Ernest Davis’ administration to flout the law only makes a bad situation worse, escalating the need for an independent investigation,” said Thomas in a statement.

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