Three Santa Clara correctional deputies plead not guilty to murder

Three Santa Clara County correctional deputies pleaded not guilty Tuesday to the murder of inmate Michael James Tyree, 31, more than three months ago at the Main Jail in San Jose.

Jereh Lubrin, 28, Matthew Farris, 27, and Rafael Rodriguez, 27, also pleaded not guilty to assault under the color of authority charge against another inmate, Juan Villa, during their hearing this afternoon at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

They have been ordered to stay 300 yards away from the county’s Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas. They remain out of custody on $1.5 million bail per person and are scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 29.

Around 10:45 p.m. on Aug. 26, the deputies were working at the Main Jail’s sixth floor where they allegedly assaulted Villa inside his cell over a dispute he had with another inmate, prosecutors said.

Lubrin and Farris went inside Tyree’s cell where they allegedly beat him while Rodriguez stood outside, according to prosecutors.

Tyree was found less than two hours later during a welfare check and emergency crews pronounced him dead at the scene, prosecutors said. A coroner’s report showed Tyree died of multiple blunt force injuries including abrasions, contusions and lacerations.

In the weeks after Tyree’s death the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors formed a blue ribbon commission chaired by LaDoris Cordell, former San Jose independent police auditor and Santa Clara County Superior Court judge, tasked with reviewing jail operations and making recommendations for improvement.

The 26-member commission also includes county officials, mental health experts, a former inmate and representatives from community organizations. Their next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 19 at the County Government Center’s board chambers in San Jose.

The sheriff’s office has received about 100 jail complaints since Tyree’s death and is reviewing them with help from the FBI.

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