Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Defense attorney Lloyd Matthews cross-examines Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green as murder defendant Johnathan Bun listens (left). Clayton Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco (right) also testified on Matthews’ motion to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office.
A Clayton County Superior Court judge heard pretrial motions, Tuesday afternoon, in the state's case against a Riverdale teen facing murder and other charges in the July 20 shooting death of a sheriff's deputy.
Johnathan Bun, 17, has been held without bond in the Henry County Jail since his arrest the night of the shooting. Prosecutors said Bun killed Clayton Sheriff's Deputy Rick Daly, 55, as Daly was assisting in a felony traffic stop in Riverdale.
Chief Judge Deborah Benefield tabled ruling on a motion for a change of venue, and denied a defense motion to disqualify the Clayton County District Attorney's Office.
Defense attorney Lloyd Matthews won a hollow victory when Benefield agreed to set bond for some of Bun's charges.
Under the law, a suspect is entitled to a bond, if he is held in jail more than 90 days before being indicted. Bun was arrested July 20 and indicted Nov. 2. Grand jurors added 15 new charges when they indicted him for the shooting.
"It seems a little incongruous that on murder charges, he can get a bond, but in less serious cases, he's not getting a bond," said Matthews. "I'd ask for $200,000 bond for malice murder."
Benefield agreed that Bun is entitled to bond on charges for which he sat in jail for more than 90 days before being indicted. Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco asked for $8 million bond in Bun's murder and armed robbery cases.
"The defendant is at risk to commit new violent felonies," said Benefield. "He committed an armed robbery, was asked to turn himself in, did not and then later, allegedly, this malice murder happened. There is evidence the defendant fled so there is evidence of flight. I will give a bond on the original charges, but he remains on 'no bond' on the new charges. The amount doesn't really matter at this point."
Benefield also found no evidence that Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson has done anything to influence the prosecution. Matthews wanted her office disqualified because Lawson is a former Juvenile Court judge, who presided over a burglary case involving Bun.
Matthews also said there is a conflict of interest because a sitting Juvenile Court judge's ex-wife works in Lawson's office.
Tanjuatco and Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green both testified that Lawson immediately removed herself from participation in Bun's prosecution.
"Since July 20, Ms. Lawson has not discussed the prosecution of the Bun case," said Tanjuatco. "I've only consulted with two other prosecutors. I don't know Bun personally or professionally, I've never prosecuted him in Juvenile Court and have no information on his juvenile record."
The two prosecutors also filed motions to "gag" the parties and officials involved in the case, and extend that to the Juvenile Court staff.
Benefield said it is too early in the process to rule on the change of venue motion.
Although Bun was to have been arraigned Jan. 3, Matthews discovered as the hearing ended that he has another case that day. Matthews stood with Bun as he signed documents declaring him to be "not guilty."
Relatives of Bun and Daly attended Tuesday's hearing. The deputy's mother, Joyce Daly, said she was relieved to know Bun will not be released.
"I was really scared there for a minute," she said. "I was afraid he was gonna get bond. They kept telling me he wasn't, but I wasn't sure until just now."
When the hearing ended, Joyce Daly approached the Bun family, which included his father and stepmother. "I'm so sorry," Daly told the family. "I'm just so sorry."
After a brief conversation with Bun’s relatives, Daly walked away.
"We both lost a son," she said. "She can still touch hers, of course."