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3 Santa Clara Sheriff's Deputies Guilty of Killing Mentally Ill Inmate

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Three Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies were charged with killing mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree. From left: Rafael Rodriguez, Matthew Farris and Jereh Lubrin. (Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office)

A jury on Thursday found three Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies guilty of killing mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree.

Rafael Rodriguez, Matthew Farris and Jereh Lubrin were all convicted of second-degree murder. The three have been remanded into custody, and are set to be sentenced on Sept. 1.

“Michael Tyree’s tragedy was worthy of our outrage,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, speaking outside the courthouse after the verdict. “This jury’s verdict treated this jail not just as the grim setting for a murder, but as an important societal institution whose employees share a mission of protection of those outside of it as well as those housed within it. Without that protection, there’s no law, there is no order, there is no justice. And in the end, for Michael Tyree, there was no chance.”

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told reporters, “We’re proud that justice was served and that those that are culpable are behind bars.”

Smith said the Sheriff’s Department’s internal investigation on the three deputies will be concluded soon.


In the courtroom, the victim's sister, Shannon Tyree, hugged her companion after the verdict was read. The families of the defendants wept quietly.

The verdict follows a two-month trial that brought national attention to the growing number of people with mental illness in jails due to a lack of community mental health treatment, and under the supervision of deputies who may have little or no training on how to interact with them.

On Aug. 27, 2015, jail staff discovered Tyree dead in his cell, his naked body smeared with vomit and feces. He died from massive blunt-force trauma that caused his liver and spleen to rupture.

At the time of his death, Tyree was being held in the Main Jail in Santa Clara County for his own safety.

Tyree, 31, suffered from addiction and bipolar disorder. He had served a five-day sentence for violating probation on a minor drug charge, but the judge in his case decided Tyree was better off waiting in jail than on the streets of San Jose until a psychiatric treatment bed -- part of the sentence -- opened up.

Days after Tyree's death, in a highly unusual move, Sheriff Laurie Smith publicly announced that an internal investigation had concluded that three correctional deputies were “the reason for this brutal murder of Michael Tyree.”

The deputies -- Farris, 28, Lubrin, 30, and Rodriguez, 28 -- were arrested in September 2015 and charged with murder.

They were released on $1.5 million bail each and placed on paid administrative leave.

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