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Three deputies convicted of inmate's murder in California

By Allen Cone
Three correctional officers were found guilty in the murder of Michael Tyree, 32, on Aug. 26, 2015, at the Santa County Mail Jail in San Jose. Photo courtesy of <a class="tpstyle" href="https://www.sccgov.org/sites/sheriff/pages/main-jail.aspx">Santa Clara County</a>
Three correctional officers were found guilty in the murder of Michael Tyree, 32, on Aug. 26, 2015, at the Santa County Mail Jail in San Jose. Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County

June 1 (UPI) -- A jury Thursday convicted three sheriff's correctional deputies of second-degree murder in the fatal beating of a mentally ill inmate two years ago in San Jose, Calif.

Found guilty were Santa Clara County deputies Matthew Farris, 28; Rafael Rodriguez, 28; and Jereh Lubrin, 30. The guards face sentencing on Sept. 1 with a minimum 15 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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The jurors reached the verdict after three days of deliberation in the two-month trial.

The guards were charged with killing Michael Tyree, 32, on Aug. 26, 2015, and the assault of another mentally ill inmate, Juan Villa, earlier that evening at Santa Clara County's Main Jail. Villa testified against the deputies during the trial.

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"We cannot and did not turn away from the tragedy of Michael Tyree," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "We will never forget Michael Tyree in our fight for those who see vulnerabilities as an opportunity to harm rather than help."

Tyree was found in his cell naked and covered in vomit and feces. He had lacerations to the liver and spleen, which was nearly severed in two.

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Defense attorneys argued that Tyree died after falling from his jail toilet into a steel sink in his cell.

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The deputies were arrested one day after the coroner ruled on Aug. 31, 2015, that Tyree had died of internal bleeding due to blunt force trauma.

Prosecution witnesses testified the correctional deputies enjoyed physically attacking inmates.

In December, Santa Clara County agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle an excessive force claim filed by Tyree's family.

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Tyree had been arrested on misdemeanor theft and drug charges, and was on a floor reserved for inmates with mental illness or other special needs.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said her department "will not be defined by the action of these three individuals ... We're proud that justice was served and that those who are culpable are behind bars.

"The acts carried out by these three individuals tarnished the reputation of this profession and of our entire agency," the sheriff added. "Conversely, I stand behind the hard work and dedication of the 1,400 deputies who perform their job every day to the highest standards and do the right thing."

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