SAN JOSE, Calif. – Three guards were ordered to trial Thursday for the death of an inmate at a San Francisco Bay Area jail, a beating that led the local sheriff to spend $761 of her own money on security cameras rather than await approval of a $20 million system from the county.
After four days of testimony, Judge Ron M. Del Pozzo found there was enough evidence against Santa Clara County deputies Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin and Rafael Rodriguez for them to stand trial for the second-degree murder of Michael Tyree and the assault of another inmate.
The ruling came after testimony from detectives, the coroner and several inmates at the jail including Juan Villa, the man they are charged with assaulting just before the August beating of Tyree.
Farris’ attorney William Rappaport told the San Jose Mercury news that he was disappointed but not surprised by the judge’s decision. Rodriguez’s attorney Matt Pavone said during the hearing that the guards bore “no malice whatsoever” against Tyree.
The deputies, who are free on bail, could get life in prison if convicted on both counts.
The decision came a day after Sheriff Laurie Smith helped crews install the new cameras at the main jail that were prompted by the lack of surveillance video in the Tyree case, KNTV-TV reported.
The cameras were put to use almost immediately when a brawl broke out Thursday between about two dozen inmates in the jail’s maximum security area.
The jail as on lockdown for hours but no one was seriously injured in the melee that began with two inmates, spread to involve many others and was quelled with pepper spray, officials said.
“One inmate brushed up against another and then the fight was on,” the sheriff said after reviewing video of the brawl. “You could see a lot of fist fighting.”
When Smith asked county officials for a new surveillance system shortly after Tyree’s death, she was told it would take two years and cost $20 million. Instead, she consulted with IT workers and paid $761 of her own money to buy a 12-camera system from Costco to help reduce blind spots in the jail, allowing staff for the first time to see inside inmate modules.
“I was frustrated. It’s been going on for six months, and it would be two years,” Smith said. “We knew we needed an interim system.”
Information from: KNTV-TV.