Photo by Curt Yeomans
Fayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Toby Daly (left), the son of slain Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly, hugs his mother, Cheryl, on Friday after a jury convicted Veasna Johnathan Bun of the elder Daly’s death.
The family of slain Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly hugged one another and embraced several law-enforcement officers, after a teenager was convicted of their loved one’s murder.
Veasna Johnathan Bun, 17, was convicted Friday on 14 counts, including malice murder and felony murder, in connection with the July 20, 2011 shooting death of Daly. While the jury’s verdict was read in open court, the deputy’s widow, Cheryl, and their son, Fayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Toby Daly, clasped each other’s hands.
“Words don’t explain what this means to us,” Toby Daly said afterward. “People say ‘closure,’ but there’s no such thing as closure. It doesn’t make us whole. We’ll never be whole. I am glad he has been convicted now. There’s a weight that’s been lifted off our shoulders.”
Bun, who is set to turn 18 in just a week-and-a-half, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1, at 8:30 a.m., in Clayton County Superior Court, for crimes related to Daly’s death. Although the sentencing phase is still a month away, he is likely looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars. The punishment for murder is life in prison.
A Clayton County jury spent just two hours deliberating Friday afternoon. The jurors found him guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, theft by receiving stolen property, three counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer, three counts of obstructing an officer, and four counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime.
Bun was acquitted on counts of aggravated assault, aggravated assault on a peace officer, obstructing an officer, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime — charges tied to allegations that the teen shot at one of two undercover deputies who witnessed the shooting of Daly.
“This shows the family that the citizens saw the importance of what Deputy Richard Daly did for the community,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco. “The community did believe in what he did. They valued him.”
Tanjuatco said the case moved quickly to trial — only nine months after the murder happened — because the district attorney’s office made it a priority. “We made it a priority because this one was a law-enforcement officer — this was one of our own,” he said. “We were ready to go to trial with this back in December, when he was indicted. There were older murder cases that we had to get out of the way, however.”
While Daly’s family expressed relief at the verdict, Bun dropped his head when he heard the jury foreman announce one guilty verdict after another. He stared at the table where he was sitting, and did not lift his head again until Clayton and Henry County sheriff’s deputies put him in handcuffs and led him out of the courtroom.
Bun’s attorney, Lloyd Matthews, quickly left the courthouse without giving a statement.
The verdict came after three hours of dramatic closing arguments from prosecutors and Matthews. During part of the prosecution’s closing, Executive Assistant District Attorney LaLaine Briones held up slain Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly’s blood-soaked pay stub in front of the jury, and used it as a symbol for what the deputy sacrificed for the county. Daly had the pay stub with him when he was killed.
“This pay stub bears his blood,” Briones said. “He bled and he died for the citizens of this county, your county. He died for every single person in this courtroom. You’ll see how much money he makes. The service he gave; we can never pay him enough for what he gave up — for what he [Bun] took from all of Daly’s family.”
Matthews admitted, in his closing arguments, it would be difficult for jurors to hand down a not guilty verdict, “but nevertheless, I am going to ask you to hand down a not guilty verdict on all of the charges.”
Matthews tried to convince jurors, however, that at least some of the blame for Daly’s death should be put on deputies who were at the scene when he was shot, for not handling Bun with more caution.
“Why not contain the situation and set up a perimeter first?” the attorney argued.
The defense attorney also proposed a conspiracy theory, however, in which he claimed Daly had drawn his weapon before encountering Bun, and first responders put it back his holster after his death, to make it appear that he never drew the weapon. One of Bun’s claims, when he took the witness stand on Thursday, was that he pulled out his gun and shot Daly because he saw someone coming toward him with a gun in their hand, without realizing it was a sheriff’s deputy.
The closing arguments capped what was, at times, an emotional trial. It has drawn the attention of several sheriff’s deputies and courthouse employees. A dozen members of Daly’s family have been in the courtroom each day, while Bun’s supporters included his stepmother and a family friend.