Preliminary hearing begins for deputies accused of beating mentally-ill inmate to death

- The preliminary hearing for three Santa Clara County Deputies accused of beating a mentally-ill inmate to death began on Monday. It was the prosecutors first chance to lay out some of the evidence in their case.

The family of Michael Tyree was shaken. This was the first time they had seen the photos of the crime scene.
The attorney representing them spoke outside the courthouse.

"I mean you saw a naked, dead inmate who had been clearly dragged from his cell," says Paula Canny, attorney for the Tyree family.

The images, presented during the preliminary hearing, showed Tyree an inmate at the Santa Clara County Jail, covered in what appeared to be vomit and feces.

Prosecutors contend he was beaten to death.

Rafael Rodriguez, Matthew Farris, and Jereh Lubrin— the three correctional officers tasked with watching him, stand accused of his murder.

The prosecutor spent much of the day laying out the timeline of events.

The focus was on the window between 10:38 p.m. and 11:09 p.m. on August 26th 2015. That's when investigators believe the beating must have occurred. It wasn't until 12:12 a.m. that the call came out for a man down.

"What they were trying to show with the timing is Michael Tyree was in a locked cell when the three deputies went into that cell block. So nobody else but those three deputies could have entered his cell," says Canny.

Attorneys for the defendants raised the topic of cell popping, the idea that a cell door might appear locked when it isn't. They also questioned the accuracy of the time log.

Still they don't need to mount a defense yet. This proceeding just determines whether the case will be bound over for trial.

The Tyree family attorney says Michael suffered frome severe mentall illness, and never should have been in the jail in the first place.

"It's horrible for the family. It's so painful. It's heartbreaking," says Canny.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor expects to call Juan Villa to the stand, an inmate who also contends he was beaten in the jail.

The preliminary hearing should last three days.

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