San Jose

Murder Trial Begins in Beating Death of Santa Clara County Jail Inmate

Jury selected in trial of three corrections deputies accused of beating to death inmate Michael Tyree in August 2015

The murder trial in the beating death of Santa Clara County inmate Michael Tyree began Monday with jury selection, and it was a relatively quick process.

Seven men and five women were selected in the trial of three county jail guards who prosecutors say beat Tyree to death in August 2015.

The county corrections deputies, Jereh Lubrin, Rafael Rodriguez and Mathew Farris, on paid leave since their arrests, were in the San Jose courtroom Monday. Farris is the son of a retired and respected deputy district attorney.

Attorney Jaime Leanos represents another inmate who claims he too was beaten by guards in the same jail. Leanos said in opening statements beginning Tuesday, he expects prosecutor Matt Braker to emphasize the internal injuries Tyree suffered the day he died. And, he said, the defense will likely argue Tyree's death was not murder.

"I think the defense has an uphill battle," Leanos said. "The best way to defend this case is, 'Hey, something happened, but it was not with the intent that resulted in murder.'"

Leanos said the leadership of Sheriff Laurie Smith might also be put on trial if the policies of the jail and training of the guards is brought into question, especially when the guards' text messages before and after Tyree’s death come up in testimony.

"The text messages from the guards talking about going into inmates' cells and taking care of business is evidence that there was a pattern of behavior among the guards of getting physical," Leanos said.

On Monday, Lubrin at times sat stone-faced during jury selection. Rodriguez tapped his feet in what seemed like a nervous twitch.

Opening statements begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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