Jury deliberations set to begin in Santa Clara Co. jail guards' murder trial
SAN JOSE (KTVU/BCN) The case of three jail guards accused of beating a mentally ill inmate to death at San Jose's Main Jail in 2015 is now in the hands of a jury. Deliberations are expected to begin Thursday morning, according to the Santa Clara County courts.
A defense attorney for one of three jail guards attacked the case presented by prosecutors in her closing argument Tuesday afternoon.
Judith Odbert represents 30-year-old Jereh Lubrin, who along with Rafael Rodriguez and Matthew Farris, both 28, could face life in prison if convicted of the murder of bipolar 31-year-old Michael Tyree on Aug. 26,
The three deputies are also charged with the assault under color of authority of 48-year-old Juan Villa, a second mentally ill inmate, the same night.
Villa, who suffers from schizophrenia and manic episodes, testified about the assault last month as well as about a prior assault on July 25, 2015, with which Lubrin is also charged.
In his three-hour closing argument today, prosecutor Matt Braker said that Villa had reported the July assault, in which Lubrin allegedly pushed Villa's face into his own feces, to a sheriff's investigator
interviewing him in the days after Tyree's death.
Villa has reportedly smeared his own feces and urine in his cell and in an interview room at the jail at least twice, including just prior to the July assault.
"What do we know about this charge?" Odbert asked, claiming that Lubrin had been denied due process.
"There was no criminal investigation."
On July 27, 2015, Lubrin sent a text message to Farris that read, "Villa Juan!!! smashed sh-on his face, ha ha ha. you missed out. but I feel bad after we smashed on the other guy. he was in the Marines in the 80s."
Odbert said today that the term "smashing" could also refer to the act of going through inmates' cells.
"Is it proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or can it be interpreted in two ways? And does it go to the benefit of the prosecutor at every step?" Odbert asked.
Braker explained to the jury today that there was no need to prove that all three deputies had beaten Tyree to convict them.
All three deputies are said to have been in Tyree's cell at the time of the alleged beating, according to testimony from numerous inmates.
"We don't need to know definitively which defendant did this," Braker said.
If the deputies were present and did nothing to stop the alleged "full-on beat-down," they can be found guilty of murder, Braker said.
The defense has argued that Tyree's injuries, including three large lacerations to his spleen and liver, were consistent with him climbing on his toilet and either slipping or jumping onto the corner of his sink.
Rarely, CPR, which Tyree received after he was found unresponsive in his cell, can cause liver lacerations.
"Where is the evidence of that? Where?" Braker said. "You can't just look at it in a vacuum."
Taken in context with the dozens of external injuries to Tyree's body, text messages between some of the deputies bragging about assaulting inmates and testimony from 11 inmate witnesses, a beating makes sense, Braker argued.
"It all fits together, piece after piece, leading to one reasonable and logical conclusion," Braker said.
Many of Tyree's injuries were inflicted to areas of the body that deputies are trained to avoid when striking inmates in self-defense, Braker said, accusing the deputies of giving Tyree "not one iota of care."
"That's what this crime is: conscious disregard for human life," Braker said.
Odbert is set to continue her closing argument on Wednesday morning.