Photo by Curt Yeomans
Veasa Johnathan Bun (right) prepares to testify Monday, during a pre-trial hearing in Clayton County Superior Court. Bun’s trial, for allegedly killing Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly, is taking place this week.
Veasa Johnathan Bun told a Clayton County Superior Court judge on Monday that he gave a statement to investigators, hours after he was arrested in the shooting death of a Clayton County sheriff’s deputy, only out of the fear that they would beat him up.
Bun, 17, charged with multiple felonies related to the July 20 shooting death of Deputy Rick Daly, testified during a pre-trial hearing before Judge Deborah C. Benefield to make that statement inadmissible. He reportedly confessed to shooting Daly during that statement, and Benefield refused to throw it out.
The Riverdale teenager said he was “beaten up” by law enforcement and that a police dog bit his head during his arrest. He said he would not have given a statement to investigators otherwise.
“I gave it [his statement] because I wanted to get it over with,” Bun said. “Before the interview, I was already beaten up by police officers, so I didn’t want to be beaten up.”
Jury selection began with the questioning of 49 potential jurors Monday in Bun’s trial for Daly’s murder. The seating of the jury is expected to take place Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Bun is facing 19 counts, including felony and malice murder, obstruction of an officer, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, theft by receiving stolen property and several counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer, in connection with the shooting.
Benefield told attorneys for both sides, before questioning of potential jurors began, that she will rule on a defense motion for a change of venue at the end of the jury-selection process. Defense Attorney Lloyd Matthews said he feared his client could not get a fair trial in the Atlanta area, because of heavy media reporting of Daly’s shooting.
Daly was shot during a traffic stop, while trying to arrest Bun on outstanding warrants stemming from a previous robbery and aggravated assault in January 2011 at a store in Forest Park. The teenager was arrested hours after the shooting, in a wooded area, in Riverdale.
“As I recall, they pulled me out of the bushes,” Bun said. “When they pulled me out, I was on my stomach. I don’t recall which specific officers were there. I put my hands behind my back, and as I looked up, I was pistol whipped, punched, and the next thing I knew, a dog was on my head.”
As the pre-trial, and jury-selection proceedings took place Monday, Bun frequently fidgeted in his chair, swaying it from side-to-side, biting his lower lip and bouncing his right leg off-and-on every few minutes.
Benefield ruled Monday morning that Bun’s statement to investigators, including representatives from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office, was not coerced.
The judge made her decision after District Attorney’s Office Investigator Steve Payne testified in the pre-trial hearing that Bun’s Miranda rights were read to him, and that the teenager freely signed paperwork saying he understood his rights, before he gave his statement. “He said, ‘I have not been threatened,’ ” the investigator testified. Payne said he was present when Bun gave his statement.
“This court finds by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant was advised of each of his Miranda rights, and he volunteered that he understood them, he voluntarily waived them, and he gave his statement freely, and voluntarily,” Benefield said. “I find that based on the totality of the circumstances, so therefore it will be admissible during the state’s case.”
Payne also testified that he heard Bun repeatedly turn down medicine for his injuries at Southern Regional Medical Center, where he was taken after his arrest for treatment of his injuries. The hospital visit came before Bun gave his statement to investigators, according to Payne.
“I was standing right outside his room, and I heard at least three occasions where the nurse asked him if he wanted anything for the pain ... and he said no,” the investigator said.
Prosecutors told Benefield that they plan to call 37 witnesses, and may not be done presenting their case until Thursday. Matthews told the judge he may only call one witness, but he did not specify whether that would be Bun.
If convicted of murder, Bun could face a life sentence in prison. He has been housed since last July in the Henry County Jail.