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Man represents himself, found not guilty of murder


Published: Wed, August 23, 2017 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A man acting as his own lawyer was acquitted Tuesday of a murder charge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Jurors before Judge John Durkin found Jermaine Bunn, 40, not guilty of the April 3, 2016, shooting death of Michael Pete, 30, who was killed at a party on East Evergreen Avenue.

Bunn was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm and tampering with evidence. He faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison if he receives the maximum sentence on both charges.

A sentencing date has not been set yet.

Bunn appeared serene as he stood up after the jury left the courtroom before deputies handcuffed him. Othella May, the victim’s mother, was hunched over a walker in tears afterward.

“He’s not the first person to get away with murder, and when he does get out, they’re going to find more dead bodies,” May said. When asked if that is what she really wanted to say, she said, “Yes.”

“My son died for nothing,” May said. “He was minding his own business at a birthday party.”

Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa, lead prosecutor on the case, declined to comment after the jury left.

Testimony in the case began Aug. 15, and jurors received the case to deliberate early Monday afternoon after closing arguments. They left at 5 p.m. Monday and returned at 9 a.m. Tuesday to continue deliberating, rendering their verdicts about 1:30 p.m.

At times, especially early in the trial, Bunn seemed clearly overwhelmed at defending himself even though he had a lawyer to assist him. He spoke in a low voice and at times when his voice could be heard, he was still incomprehensible.

However, during closing arguments, Bunn was able to highlight weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, mainly that police collected shell casings from four different .40-caliber shell casings at the scene; that eight different people at the party tested positive for gunshot residue; and that autopsy information showed that the angle of the fatal bullet wound to Pete did not match up to how prosecutors said the crime occurred.

Prosecutors said that Pete told a partygoer that it was Bunn who shot him, and Pete did have a gun and fired a shot. Bunn suffered a gunshot wound to the face that prosecutors said was inflicted when he shot Pete.

They could give no motive, however, other than to say the two were arguing. They said the reason why they do not have a motive is because Bunn lied to police when he was questioned.

Bunn had been released from prison less than 48 hours before attending the party where Pete was killed. He served a seven-year sentence on felonious assault and kidnapping charges.


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