(Photo by Kathy Jefcoats)
Veasna Johnathan Bun sits with his public defender, Lloyd Matthews, Friday morning in Clayton Magistrate Court.
By Kathy Jefcoats
A Clayton County State Court judge has ordered a psychological evaluation to determine the competency, and criminal responsibility, of a Riverdale teenager charged with murder in the shooting death of a sheriff's deputy.
Veasna Johnathan Bun, 17, was in Clayton County Magistrate Court with his public defender Friday morning for a bond hearing. Instead, Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green announced the order for a mental examination, filed Thursday by Judge Aaron Mason.
Bun faces murder and other felony charges in Clayton County Superior Court, in the death July 20, of Clayton County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Daly. He was arrested after a five-hour search, less than a mile from the shooting.
Bun's attorney, Lloyd Matthews, said he may pursue bond, in as little as 90 days, but acknowledged that it can take months for an evaluation to be completed.
"It could be five months, it could be nine months, could be a long time," said Matthews after the hearing. "I am not requesting bond right now, but I may after 90 days, because he will be entitled to a bond at that time."
Bun was cited in May on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass, loitering and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana -- violations that are prosecuted in state court.
"It is probably because he was accused of murder after the misdemeanor charges," said Matthews. "If he didn't have murder charges pending, I don't think he would be getting evaluated."
Bun has a lengthy juvenile criminal history dating to age 10. Clayton County Juvenile Court judges put him in state care twice, for the maximum two years, because they presumably considered him a threat to the community. He is accused of robbing a Forest Park store at gunpoint in January, when he was 16.
After discussing the evaluation, Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker expressed concern for Bun's safety while in custody. Out of respect for the co-workers of the fallen officer, Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer is housing Bun in his jail.
"Is there a need for an order for the jail to monitor him? Any concerns?" Walker asked Matthews.
Matthews said he didn't think so. "He's happy over there, content," he said. "I am not aware of him being in isolation, so I assume he's in general population."
However, a few minutes later, Matthews amended his response. "I understand indirectly from his mother that he is getting threats," he said. "It might be wise to keep him segregated."
After the hearing, Bun's mother told Matthews that the threats are coming from the jail staff, not other inmates. She refused to talk to reporters, but spoke to Matthews in front of the media.
"They are saying that [they] want to beat him up and hope he gets tortured," she told Matthews. Matthews described the alleged threats as "taunting, messing with his head."
But McBrayer denied that anyone has threatened Bun. He said Bun has been in the jail infirmary since his arrest, until Thursday, when he was cleared to go into the general population. Bun was being treated for head wounds inflicted by a K-9 unit during his capture. Upon leaving the infirmary, Bun was taken to a two-man cell.
"I haven't heard any comments at all; he has not said anything to anybody, not that I am aware of," said McBrayer. "He has access to an inmate request form, if he'd had any problems, and has not submitted anything."
McBrayer said Jail Maj. Jeff Norman held a mandatory meeting with his staff prior to Bun's arrival. "They were cautioned to not say anything to him," said McBrayer. "No comments, no legal advice. He's been in medical isolation, interacting with doctors and nurses until yesterday when he was cleared to go into general population. He's not said anything to anybody."
Walker issued an order for Bun to be segregated from other inmates, either in the infirmary, or isolation, at McBrayer's discretion. "This should not be considered punitive, but for the purposes of safety," she said.