New York attorney general to investigate black mother's jail death

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 03, 2015 4:20 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's top prosecutor will investigate the death of a 42-year-old black mother of eight while in police custody on shoplifting charges, state officials said on Monday.

Raynette Turner was found unresponsive in her holding cell on July 27, two days after she was arrested on suspicion of stealing crab legs from a supermarket in Mount Vernon, a city on the border of the Bronx borough.

"Ms. Turner’s death is a tragedy for her loved ones, and it raises questions ... questions that deserve answers," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The Westchester County District Attorney's office was leading the investigation but handed the case over to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman under an executive order signed by Cuomo.

Cuomo said he signed the order to reduce perceived conflicts of interest.

Turner's death came the same month that Sandra Bland, a black motorist found hanged in an apparent suicide while being jailed for a minor traffic offense, sparking protests over the punishment of African-Americans by police for low-level offenses.

Turner, who is also black, complained to officers that she was feeling ill the night before her death, News 12 Westchester reported. She was taken to a nearby hospital and placed back into a holding cell hours later. She was due to be arraigned the day she was found dead.

Turner's children range in age from 8 to 21, according to the New York Daily News and other media. It was not clear if Turner was employed.

Mount Vernon officials have not offered an explanation for Turner's death but have said that an internal investigation is under way.

"Every effort will be put forth by this administration to make sure that Mrs. Turner's death is investigated in a manner that is comprehensive and thorough," Mayor Ernie Davis said in a statement.

An autopsy has been completed but the full results have not been made public.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney)