VIDEO: 3 Santa Clara County jail guards found guilty of second-degree murder of inmate Michael Tyree

 

SAN JOSE (KRON/BCN) — Three Santa Clara County jail guards have been found guilty of murdering inmate Michael Tyree, the jury announced on Thursday.

Jereh Lubrin, 30, Rafael Rodriguez, 28, and Matthew Farris, 28, are the three jail guards now convicted of murdering mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree in 2015.

The trial, which began in March, also included charges that the trio assaulted 48-year-old schizophrenic inmate Juan Villa on Aug. 26, 2015, the night Tyree died. However, a mistrial was declared on those charges.

Lubrin was also accused of a prior assault on Villa on July 25, 2015.

Tyree’s injuries included lacerations to the liver and spleen, which was nearly severed in two, when he was found in his cell naked and covered in vomit and feces.

The defense argued that Santa Clara County medical examiner Joseph O’Hara jumped to the conclusion that Tyree had been beaten to death.

Defense attorneys alleged that O’Hara did an inadequate investigation of the cell, including a scrawled message over Tyree’s doorway that attorneys for the guards claimed could have been a suicide note.

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Expert witnesses for the defense testified that Tyree’s injuries could be consistent with a fall off of his combination toilet-sink.

Text messages between some of the deputies, who are out on $1.5 million bail and on paid administrative leave, included boasts of beating inmates in areas of the jail without security cameras.

Rodriguez’s Google search history showed search queries the morning Tyree was found dead in his cell including “can you die from punches to you,” “can you die if someone punches you in the armpit” and “can you die if someone punches you in the rib.”

The guards face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese has issued the following statement on the verdict:

The death of inmate Michael Tyree in a Santa Clara County Main Jail and the arrests of three corrections officers on murder charges marked a tragic episode in the history of our County’s Custody Operations, and made us painfully aware of the changes that needed to be made in our jail system.

Today, the three corrections officers have found guilty of second-degree murder, concluding another chapter and holding them accountable for their actions. I hope that the family of Michael Tyree is satisfied with this outcome and can feel some comfort that the individuals responsible have been brought to justice.

But this conclusion does not bring an end to our efforts to improve our jails and the treatment of inmates. We will continue the work that began with the Blue Ribbon Commission’s public examination of Custody Operations and the recommendations that emerged from its review. We have made substantial progress since the night of August 26, when Michael Tyree was found dead in his cell. But much more work needs to be done to ensure that our jails are safe for inmates, corrections officers and visitors. We won’t stop until that is accomplished.

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