Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco makes a point in the state’s case against convicted cop killer Johnathan Bun (left). With Bun is his defense attorney, Lloyd Matthews. Bun is on trial this week for armed robbery.
By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — The name and identity of a Clayton County sheriff's deputy killed during a traffic stop will remain unknown to jurors hearing evidence against the shooter in another case.
Clayton Superior Court Chief Judge Deborah Benefield ruled Monday morning during a motions hearing that jurors in this week's armed robbery case against Johnathan Bun will not hear that Bun killed Deputy Rick Daly in July 2011.
"The court will rule and order that witnesses are not allowed to name Deputy Daly as the person who was shot at," said Benefield. "I am not allowing them to say a deputy was killed. He is not to be referred to in any meaningful way."
Jury selection began Monday at 1:30 p.m. and opening arguments are expected to get started later in the afternoon. Prosecutors expect the trial to last about two days.
Bun, 18, was convicted in May of killing Daly during a traffic stop. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole plus 70 years. Daly initiated the traffic stop because Bun was wanted on charges related to the January 2011 armed robbery at Los Amigos Gift Shop.
Bun exited the car firing at Daly and other deputies as he ran into nearby woods. He eluded capture for more than five hours before being found about a half-mile away. Daly was the only deputy hit and he died a short time later.
Clayton County assistant district attorneys Erman Tanjuatco, Jason Green and Travis Meyer plan to argue that Bun's firing at deputies and fleeing the scene shows consciousness of guilt in the armed robbery.
Tanjuatco didn't object to the ruling.
"The name is irrelevant, you're right," he said.
Instead, Clayton sheriff's Investigator Jimmy Black is expected to testify that Bun shot at him and another deputy, without mentioning Daly or his death.
Benefield also ordered Green to redact Daly's name from a video statement Bun gave to police when he was arrested. Bun's attorney, Lloyd Matthews, failed to have any mention of gunfire removed from testimony.
"That's very strong evidence of flight and I will allow it," said Benefield.
Tanjuatco said witnesses will testify this week that Bun knew in July 2011 deputies were looking for him on the Los Amigos armed robbery and at least one investigator talked to him by phone and tried to get him to surrender.
Jurors selected to hear evidence against Bun traveled into the courthouse parking lot on a road named for Daly. Matthews expressed concern about that exposure in terms of a change of venue. Benefield ruled Matthews can ask prospective jurors about their knowledge of Daly but the state cannot.
Matthews also failed in an attempt to have the sentence sought by the state deemed cruel and unusual. If convicted, the state plans to ask for a life sentence to be served consecutively to Bun's murder sentence. However, that sentence does not allow for parole where a sentence for armed robbery can.
"At the time of this armed robbery, my client was 16," said Matthews. "The sentence is an indirect way of imposing life without parole for a non-homicide offense."
Benefield disagreed and denied his motion.
Bun pleaded guilty Friday to a June 30, 2011, armed robbery he committed with Xavier Carter. Jurors can hear about that armed robbery because the facts in both are similar, said Benefield. The state asked for a life sentence to be served concurrently with Bun's murder conviction.