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AG to probe death of woman in Mount Vernon police custody

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks at a news conference on March 30, 2015 in Manhattan. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

ALBANY - Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will investigate the death of a mother of eight who was held in a police holding cell overnight on a shoplifting charge as the state's first case for a special prosecutor in police confrontations.

Raynette Turner, 42, was arrested July 25 and held in a Mount Vernon police lockup. The next day, a Sunday, she was rushed to the hospital between 7:30 and 8 p.m. after complaining she didn't feel well. She was treated for high blood pressure. She returned to the cell after 10 p.m. and was found dead on July 27.

"We're going to handle this investigation impartially, thoroughly and independently and will follow the facts wherever they lead," Schneiderman said Monday.

"This relates to a crisis of public confidence," Schneiderman said of his role as special prosecutor in police confrontation cases that result in a civilian's death.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said a special prosecutor is needed because the case "raises questions."

"This kind of situation is the reason that I signed Executive Order 147 last month," Cuomo said, referring to the measure that takes lethal police confrontation cases away from local prosecutors and gives them to the state attorney general.

But before Schneiderman could investigate, Cuomo had to amend his July 8 executive order. The original order restricted a special prosecutor to "matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian, whether in custody or not, caused by a law enforcement officer."

Monday, Cuomo amended that at Scheiderman's request to include "any and all unlawful acts or omissions or alleged unlawful acts or omissions by an law enforcement officer."

An attorney for the family, Osvaldo Gonzalez, has claimed that city police failed to follow protocols for an inmate needing medical treatment.

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore called Cuomo's action an expansion of his order to fit the Turner case. "We will work with the AG and his staff to ensure a smooth transition of this matter," said DiFiore.


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