SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Three former Santa Clara County correctional officers convicted in the beating death of a mentally ill inmate were sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in state prison.
Jereh Lubrin, 30, Rafael Rodriguez, 28, and Matthew Farris, 28, were convicted of second-degree murder last June for the fatal beating of Michael Tyree, 31, at San Jose’s Main Jail in August 2015.
Prosecutors said the three beat Tyree so violently that it ruptured his spleen and liver, causing him to bleed to death in his cell.
Numerous inmates in nearby cells testified that they heard Tyree pleading with the guards “I’m sorry” and “stop” before he was found dead. He suffered from bipolar disorder.
The county medical examiner ruled Tyree’s death a homicide by blunt force trauma.
“We asked the court to give the maximum sentence because when these so-called guards broke Michael Tyree’s body that night two years ago they also broke the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen said.
“We are not given batons, guns, handcuffs and the weight of the law to use with frustration, anger and cruelty. These tools are not our personal possessions, they are lent to us by the people. Entrusted power is not a personal plaything. It is not a happy day that these men whose job it was to watch over our correctional system will now be imprisoned within it. It is a just day,” Rosen said.
The case prompted a review of the Santa Clara County jail system and led to reforms, including the installation of surveillance cameras in jails and additional funding of mental health services.
Attorneys for the defendants argued that Tyree died after he slipped or fell off his combination toilet-sink and landed on the corner of the sink.
Defense attorneys claimed the medical examiner jumped to conclusions in determining the cause of Tyree’s death, spending limited time on the investigation and being unduly influenced by inmates’ accounts of the assault.
None of the attorneys for the defendants were immediately available for comment after the sentencing.
The county settled a lawsuit by Tyree’s family in September for $3.6 million.
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