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Gary Bush

Other Robbery Exonerations with Mistaken Witness Identification
On October 6, 2006, an older gray-haired man wearing a hat and dressed in camouflage handed a note to a teller in the Bank of Southside Virginia in the City of Petersburg, Virginia. In the note, he claimed to have a gun and demanded money. The teller, 22-year-old Brandy Hawthorne, handed over nearly $5,000 and the man fled.

On November 8, 2006, the BB&T Bank in Prince George County, Virginia was robbed in a similar manner by an older man wearing a hat and camouflage clothing. He handed 17-year-old teller Bethany Hays a note demanding money and said he had a gun. Hays handed over $900 and the man ran out of the bank.

On November 13, 2006, police arrested 56-year-old Gary Bush and charged him with both robberies after both tellers and two other witnesses, one an employee of Bank of Southside Virginia and the other a customer in the BB&T Bank, picked Bush’s photograph out of photographic lineups.

In April 2007, Bush went to trial for the robbery of the Bank of Southside Virginia in City of Petersburg Circuit Court. Hawthorne and 40-year-old Dena Patrick, the bank manager, both identified Bush as the robber.

Hawthorne admitted that at the time of the crime, she said the robber was about 5 feet 2 inches tall, and that Bush was 5 feet 8 inches tall. She said she identified Bush in part because his eyeglasses looked similar to those the robber wore. Patrick said she first noticed the robber because of his hat and glasses, which are often worn by robbers to conceal their faces, but that she only really looked at the robber as he ran by her office on his way out of the bank.

There was no physical evidence linking Bush to the crime. A handwriting analysis comparing the note, which had been left behind, to Bush’s handwriting was inconclusive. Bush was excluded as the source of a fingerprint on the note.

Bush testified and denied robbing the bank. He also presented a date-stamped recording showing that he was conducting a transaction with a state official in a different location at the time of the crime.

On April 16, 2007, he was convicted of robbery and sentenced to five years in prison.

In July 2007, he went to trial for the BB&T Bank robbery in Prince George County Circuit Court and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. Bank teller Bethany Hays identified Bush as the robber. She conceded that she did not identify him the first time she looked at the photographic lineup, but did the second time she was shown the array. She said she identified him by his facial features, including his eyes, although on the day of the crime, she said the robber’s hat obscured the top half of his face from her view.

A customer, 44-year-old Thomas Ard, identified Bush as well, saying he had seen him on prior occasions.

Bush denied he committed the robbery and presented evidence showing that he was financially stable and was elsewhere at the time of the crime. In addition, he was excluded as the source of a palm print on the note left behind by the robber.

On August 2, 2007, the judge convicted Bush of robbery. The judge sentenced Bush to seven years in prison and ordered it to be served consecutively to the five-year sentence in the other robbery case.

On May 17, 2016, 62-year-old Christian Amos went to the Prince George County police department and confessed to committing three bank robberies, including the two for which Bush had been convicted. Amos said he was confessing out of a crisis of conscience.

Amos said that his grandson had been accused of breaking some windows. His grandson initially denied involvement, but a day later admitted that he had done it. Amos said that he was proud of his grandson for admitting what he did, but he also was stricken by the fact that he had committed three bank robberies and had not been caught.

He had been unaware that Bush had been convicted for two of the robberies, compounding his remorse.

During a lengthy interview, Amos provided details that matched all three crimes, convincing detectives that he had been the real robber and not Bush. He admitted robbing the Bank of Southside Virginia twice—in 2006, for which Bush was convicted, and in 2014. He also admitted he committed the BB&T robbery for which Bush was convicted.

On May 26, 2016, Bush was released from prison on parole.

Amos subsequently pled guilty to the BB&T Bank robbery and the 2014 Bank of Southside Virginia robbery. He was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison. He was not charged with the 2006 Bank of Southside Virginia robbery.

Bush, represented by the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law, filed a petition seeking certificates of innocence. The prosecution supported the petition.

On May 22, 2018, the Court of Appeals of Virginia granted the certificates of innocence, noting that police and prosecutors had substantiated Amos’s confession.

“This confession established a high probability of Bush’s acquittal, and considered together with (Amos’s) guilty plea and conviction…allows this court to conclude with reasonable certainty that no rational fact-finder would have found Bush guilty,” the appeals court wrote.

In March 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly which awarded Bush $520,163 in compensation. The bill also set aside up to $10,000 in career and technical training from the state's community-college system.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/30/2018
Last Updated: 3/21/2019
County:Petersburg City
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:12 years
Age at the date of reported crime:56
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No