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Judge declares mistrial in child rape case

  • Guy Bush Jr., 47, left, and his attorney, Jon Heyman, of Northampton, listen in Hampshire Superior Court on Thursday as Judge Daniel Ford reads aloud a question from the jury. MICHAEL MAJCHROWICZ

  • A mistrial was declared Thursday in the child rape case of  Guy Bush Jr., left, shown with his lawyer Jon Heyman earlier this week in Hampshire Superior Court. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



@mjmajchrowicz
Thursday, May 19, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — After an unusual sequence of events — including the announcement of a guilty verdict that was then questioned by one juror — a Hampshire Superior Court judge Thursday declared a mistrial in the case of a former South Hadley man accused of molesting a 5-year-old girl in 2001.

Before the mistrial was declared, a guilty verdict was read, the defendant wept, and a woman burst out of her seat and threw her bag against a wall outside the courtroom.

Three times on Thursday the jury interrupted its deliberations to inform Judge Daniel Ford it was having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict.

Each time, Ford sent the jurors back, instructing them to return with a verdict in the case of Guy Bush Jr., 47, of Grand Island, New York, formerly of South Hadley, who was accused of molesting the girl in her bedroom on multiple occasions during the  summer of 2001.

After he was indicted in 2014, Bush pleaded not guilty in Hampshire Superior Court to a charge of child rape and three counts of indecent assault. Bush was known to the girl, though they were not relatives.

Following about 12 hours of deliberation over two days, the jury returned about 4 p.m. Thursday with a guilty verdict on all counts.

Following the verdict, Bush’s attorney, Jon Heyman, of Northampton, asked that the jurors be individually polled. After Ford reluctantly agreed, Clerk of Courts Harry Jekanowski asked each juror to affirm that the verdict was unanimous.

After about half the jurors confirmed this was the true verdict, one of them, a young woman, spoke out when it was her turn.

“I think some people didn’t completely agree,” the juror said, visibly nervous.

The courtroom, which seemed to stand still at that moment, erupted in gasps and nervous mumbles.

“We don’t have a unanimous verdict,” Ford said.

He again ordered the jury to resume deliberations. But a note was sent to the judge less than 30 minutes later that Ford read aloud:

“Once again, the jury has failed to come to a unanimous decision … some jurors had agreed to the majority opinion in order to reach a verdict. We feel the differences between points of view are so strong and so fixed, we will never reach an agreement. We respectfully request to be dismissed.”

Ford, his face turning a shade of deep red, looked up from the note and wondered aloud whether ordering the jurors to continue to deliberate would do any good.

“I think with what they say here, the effort would be futile,” Ford said in court.

After the protracted, and highly unusual, series of events resulting in the premature verdict, the judge declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.

“Do you have any thoughts on how you want to proceed?” Ford asked the attorneys.

“The commonwealth feels, as it’s always felt, that this is a strong case,” Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Caleb Weiner said in court.

The attorneys agreed to set a status hearing for June 15, when they will begin to discuss dates for a new trial. Bush will continue to be held in the Hampshire County Jail on $100,000 bail.

In more than three decades, Jekanowski said after court let out, he had never seen anything quite like this.

Waiting

A long day of waiting preceded the dramatic turn of events.

Throughout the trial, Bush’s stepsister, Tara McLean, 42, of Springfield, alternated between smoking on a bench outside and sitting in the courtroom lobby, wondering if Bush would be coming home with her to the room she made for him.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” McLean said outside the courtroom Wednesday. “He’s, by far, no saint. I’m not trying to say my brother’s perfect, but it’s never been anything that has to do with this.”

She thought of the jury inside the deliberation room.

“I just hope they know they have a man’s life in their hands,” she said.

If convicted, Bush would face between eight and 25 years in prison.

On Thursday, as deliberations continued, McLean was sitting with other family members shortly before the verdict was reached.

“It’s easy for us to sit back here and get mad,” McLean said. “But it’s gotta be different for him on the receiving end of this … for people you don’t even know making a decision about your life.”

Inside the courtroom, as soon as the verdict was read, McLean let out a striking gasp. A court officer was already walking toward her to advise her to calm down when she shot out of her seat, hysterical, and barreled through the courtroom doors.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.