WATCH: Jail Guards Sentenced to 15 Years to Life for Beating Inmate to Death

From left: Jereh Lubrin, Rafael Rodriguez, Matthew Farris

SAN JOSE — Three former correctional officers convicted of fatally beating a mentally ill inmate were each sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in state prison, concluding a case that sparked community outrage and exposed Santa Clara County’s wholesale neglect of its jails.

Relatives and friends of former guards Jereh Lubrin, Matt Farris and Rafael Rodriguez sobbed in the packed courtroom as Judge David A. Cena sentenced the men for the second-degree murder of bipolar inmate Michael Tyree. Despite dozens of heartfelt letters from the men’s families, pastors and in Farris’ case several retired police officers, the judge declined to grant their request of no more than a year in county jail.

“Love you, Matt” one woman shouted. “Te amo, mi niño,” another woman told Rodriguez, wailing as she got up to leave the courtroom.

Lubrin, 30, and Rodriguez and Farris, both 29, must serve the full 15 years in prison under the current rules before they can apply for parole.

The stiff sentence in a case involving excessive force by law enforcement officers was relatively unusual. But the judge had little choice, once he ruled that the other two sentences at his disposal — up to a year in county jail or no jail at all — were “inappropriate.” He was then compelled under state law to sentence them to the mandatory term for second-degree murder: 15 years to life in prison.

He did so in an even-handed manner, noting that letters from Tyree’s friends and family, including one read aloud by the prosecutor, “made it clear he (Tyree) was loved and will be missed.” But the judge also expressed compassion for the former guards’ relatives and friends, who had tried to persuade him in the letters that the men were of good character.

The judge said that the prison sentence, which was also recommended by a probation officer, doesn’t mean the former guards are “bad people,” adding “I also regret the impact on their friends and family.”

Tyree, 31, was in jail awaiting a bed in a residential treatment center for the mentally ill on Aug. 26, 2015, when he suffered what the prosecution characterized as an “agonizing and painful” death inflicted inside his 12.5′ x 6′ cell by the three trained, physically fit and armed guards.

One of Tyree’s two sisters, Shannon Tyree, had planned to fly in from New York City, but her flight was canceled because of polar weather conditions on the East Coast. In a three-page letter read aloud by prosecutor Matt Braker, she said Michael was tormented by his disease, especially after their father died, and refused to accept his inheritance and her many offers of assistance.

“When he would tell me people were after him, including me, I would dismiss it as delusion and paranoia and tell him no one was after him,” she wrote. “But in the end, he was right. These three men were after him, maybe just on a whim that night, and maybe not intending to kill him, but they were after him. And he is dead.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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