Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Attorneys for both sides talk with Chief Judge Deborah Benefield Tuesday during the armed robbery trial of Johnathan Bun as the court reporter records the conversation.
By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — A convicted cop killer on trial this week for armed robbery told Clayton County police he targeted the Forest Park gift shop because he believed they operated illegal gambling machines.
Johnathan Bun, 18, is serving life without parole plus 70 years for the July 2011 shooting death of Clayton County sheriff's Deputy Rick Daly. Daly was killed during a traffic stop made so Bun could be arrested on warrants alleging the January 2011 armed robbery of Los Amigos Gifts and Things.
Testimony in the case against Bun began and ended Tuesday. Jurors are expected to return this morning to hear closing arguments and begin deliberations. The state will ask for a life sentence to be served consecutively with the murder term if Bun is convicted.
Jurors saw a videotaped confession Bun made to police hours after he shot and killed Daly. In the statement, Bun admits to robbing the gift store.
"They've been doing illegal gambling so I thought I could rob the place for the pay outs," said Bun on the video. "That's the money to rob, they don't report the money from illegal gambling."
Bun's attorney, Lloyd Matthews, said Monday that there is no question that Bun committed the armed robbery, which netted $200. Matthews didn't offer an opening statement Tuesday and Bun exercised his right to not take the stand in his own defense.
Jurors heard testimony from detectives who were with Daly during the traffic stop and witnessed his death at Bun's hands. However, Chief Judge Deborah Benefield said it would be prejudicial if jurors knew that Bun was convicted of killing Daly. Daly's name was not even mentioned Tuesday.
But sheriff's investigators Jimmy Black and Justin Mitchell testified to witnessing the traffic stop that resulted in Bun shooting Daly and firing shots at them before running into the woods. Benefield ruled jurors could hear that because it showed Bun's flight to avoid prosecution in the armed robbery.
The state presented 13 witnesses Tuesday, moving the case along faster than Clayton County prosecutors Erman Tanjuatco, Jason Green and Travis Meyer expected. The last witness was Xavier Carter, Bun's codefendant in a June 30, 2011, armed robbery of a hair salon in Riverdale.
Bun pleaded guilty Friday to that armed robbery. Carter cut a deal with the state and is expected to be sentenced to 10 years, to serve three in prison followed by seven on probation.
With the defense not denying Bun's involvement, the battle is expected to be waged during the sentencing phase, if he is convicted. Tanjuatco plans to ask Benefield to sentence Bun to life in prison to be served consecutively with the murder sentence. Matthews is hoping for, at the most, a concurrent sentence.
Tanjuatco's theory is if Bun's murder sentence is reduced on appeal to life with the possibility of parole, having back to back life sentences reduces the chance of an earlier release.