A Rikers Island Correction Officer was arrested today for allegedly falsifying records on the night a mentally ill inmate died in an overheated cell. Carol Lackner, 34, was working the graveyard shift on February 14th in the jail's AMKC mental observation housing area. Lackner was supposed to conduct regular tours and check on the well-being of the inmates, and she noted in the DOC logbook that she had been making her rounds on the night Jerome Murdough "basically baked to death" in his cell. But surveillance footage tells a different story.
According to the Department of Investigation, security video shows that Lackner did not perform any of these checks and left her shift shortly after 2:30 a.m., prior to her relief arriving. It was the Correction Officer who relieved her who discovered Murdough unresponsive in his cell at approximately 2:49 a.m., lying in a pool of blood and vomit. The temperature in his cell was 101 degrees, and the Medical Examiner determined that at the time of death, Murdough's body temperature was 103.
When Murdough's death was reported, one official said that the homeless veteran "basically baked to death." Murdough, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was taking psychotropic medication at the time, which doctors say can make the patient more susceptible to heat. His intake form stated that he felt "hopeless," was suicidal, and needed "constant supervision." Murdough, a former Marine, had been arrested for trespassing after police found him sleeping in a Harlem stairwell in early February.
"Fabricating documents and covering up misconduct are serious crimes that foster the broader problems of violence, contraband smuggling, and security breaches at the City jails," said DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters. "DOI’s recommendations have already helped bring about significant changes in security and screening and we continue to work with Commissioner Ponte to come up with workable solutions."
Lackner is charged with Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, which are class E felonies, and Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor
According to a report in May, officials at Rikers Island had requested that the heating problem be fixed before Murdough "baked to death" in his cell, but the repairs weren't started until after he died.