No criminality in Mount Vernon jail death, attorney general investigation finds

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (WABC) -- New York's top prosecutor says a suburban police department has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the jail death of a mother of eight.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued the findings Thursday in the July 2015 death of Raynette Turner in Mount Vernon.

Schneiderman said investigators interviewed more than 40 witnesses, reviewed more than 1,700 pages of medical records -- including autopsy and toxicology results -- and examined video evidence covering virtually the entire time Turner was in custody at the Mt. Vernon Police Department.

The official autopsy, conducted by the Westchester County Medical Examiner, found that Turner died of natural causes. But relatives had disputed an autopsy that said Turner died from an enlarged heart and chronic cocaine and morphine use.

"Ms. Turner's death was a tragedy, and the public deserves all of the facts," Schneiderman said. "This report reflects my office's commitment to providing a thorough and deliberate review in each and every one of these cases, and to make sure that the full results of our investigation are provided to the public."

Police officials in Mount Vernon, a city of about 68,000 residents that borders New York City, said Turner was arrested July 25, 2015, a Saturday, for stealing a package of crab legs from a wholesale food store. While awaiting a Monday arraignment, she reported not feeling well and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. She was treated for high blood pressure, then returned to her cell a few hours later.

Turner was found dead on July 27.

Schneiderman undertook the investigation after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the attorney general authority in cases involving fatal police encounters. Cuomo said he hoped to do away with perceived conflicts of interest between local district attorneys and police.

Among those who asked Cuomo to empower the attorney general was the mother of Eric Garner, who died after a police chokehold. No officers were indicted in his death.

The full report can be read here.
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