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Bun hearing delayed while court awaits higher ruling

A hearing to determine whether a sentence of life without parole for a teenage killer is cruel and unusual punishment has been delayed while the local court awaits a pending ruling on the issue by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thurday’s hearing on the defense motion in the state’s case against Johnathan Bun has been continued, said Clayton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco. Bun turned 18 years old, days after being convicted in May of the July shooting death of Clayton sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly, 55. He was 17 at the time of the shooting and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

Bun’s sentencing hearing is set for June 29 in Clayton Superior Court Chief Judge Deborah Benefield’s courtroom.

Bun’s defense attorney, Lloyd Matthews, raised the question of the appropriate sentence given Bun’s age, and a hearing to argue the matter was set for Thursday. However, the higher court has been debating the matter for several months and is expected to issue a ruling any day.

“The judge is waiting for the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on the issue of life without parole for defendants under 18,” said Tanjuatco.

Bun’s brushes with the law began at 10, when he was referred to Clayton Juvenile Court for bringing a pocketknife to school, court records show. According to the records, Bun was disciplined by school officials for having the pocketknife but the complaint was dismissed due to his mental incompetence.

Bun was in court every year since age 13, when he was put on probation for delinquent acts of burglary, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and being a runaway. Little more than a month later, then-Clayton Juvenile Court Judge Tracy Graham Lawson revoked Bun’s probation and ordered him committed for the maximum of two years to the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

Lawson left the bench and was elected Clayton County District Attorney in 2008. Her office prosecuted the murder case against Bun, but Lawson recused herself because of her involvement in his juvenile case.

A year after that initial committal, Bun was detained for being a party to the crime of burglary and re-committed to the state for two more years.

Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske said Bun presented enough of a risk, even at 13, that he was removed from the community.

At 15, Bun was accused of damaging his mother’s house. A complaint of criminal trespass was handled by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The next year, Bun was referred to court for disrupting a public school. Officials said he got upset with a teacher and pulled a fire alarm.

In November, when he was 16, Bun was put on six months’ probation in South Carolina for being a minor in possession of alcohol. His probation ended May 16.

Clayton County police said that in January, while on probation, Bun robbed a Forest Park store at gunpoint and made off with $200. It was because of those warrants that Daly initiated a stop July 20 on a car in which Bun was a passenger. Bun emerged from the car firing a Glock .40-caliber handgun at Daly, hitting him several times. Bun fled the scene but was found five and a half hours later less than a mile away.

Removing a juvenile from his home and committing him to a state facility is an action taken seriously by the courts, said Teske. The commitments expire when the youthful offender turns 17, the age at which in Georgia a person is treated legally as an adult. Bun was 17 in May 2011, two months before he shot and killed Daly.