Three Santa Clara County jail deputies found guilty of second-degree murder in the beating death of inmate Michael Tyree have been sentenced to 15 years to life, a judge ruled Friday.
Jereh Lubrin, 30, Rafael Rodriguez, 28, and Matthew Farris, 28, in June were convicted in the killing of bipolar 31-year-old Tyree on Aug. 26, 2015, the night before he was found dead in his cell with his spleen ruptured nearly in two.
"This sentence is a just sentence," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "It protects and serves our community."
That was also the sentiment of Tyree's sister, Shannon, who came to the Bay Area in September 2015 to claim her brother's ashes a month after he was killed. She made references to it during a victim statement read by prosecutor Matt Braker when she was emotionally devastated knowing ashes were all she had left of her brother.
Shannon Tyree was unable to get to the Bay Area because of the East Coast snowstorms, but spoke to NBC Bay Area in a telephone interview about Friday's sentencing.
"Today I have some relief," she said. "It doesn't bring him back. It doesn't change anything, but it's justice for him."
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith expressed sympathy to all families involved and said Tyree's legacy will include how jails operate.
"I think it's an improved system," Smith said. "I think jails around the nation are paying attention to what's happening in Santa Clara County and the progress we're making. I think it'll be a legacy of transformation."
The defense had claimed that Tyree's death was not a homicide, suggesting that he died by suicide by jumping onto the corner of the sink in his cell, rupturing his organs.
The prosecution said the jail guards thrived on the abuse of their power over inmates.
The three deputies can still appeal the case, so there could be more legal fights.
Bay City News contributed to this report.