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Omicron surge may delay Youngstown murder trial

YOUNGSTOWN — Attorneys for the prosecution and defense have asked for next Monday’s murder trial of Samuel A. Richard in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to be postponed because of the huge numbers of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Assistant Prosecutor Mike Yacovone and defense attorney Tom Zena jointly asked Judge John Durkin on Monday to postpone the trial “due to the increase in number of COVID-19 cases across the country, state and county.”

A filing states that prosecutors are aware of two “crucial witnesses who are unable to attend (the trial) due to medical conditions,” adding “given recent events, the state expects more to come forward in the coming days.”

Judge Durkin had not responded to the filing as of Monday, but court officials are watching the case numbers.

Ohio has recorded record numbers of new COVID-19 daily cases several times in recent weeks, including reaching more than 20,000 new daily cases — for the first time — three times in recent weeks.

Richard, 33, of Youngstown, is indicted on aggravated murder, murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the Oct. 16, 2020, shooting death of Keylan T. Davis, 32, at 1080 Compass Drive West in Austintown.

Richard also is indicted on a specification that he is a repeat violent offender. The specifications could add years to his sentence, if he is convicted.

Ironically, at a Dec. 9 hearing in the Kimonie Bryant aggravated murder case, defense attorney John Juhasz told Judge Anthony D’Apolito he had concern that Juhasz and Bryant’s other lawyers may not be ready for the Bryant case to go to trial in the spring because of the number of trials being scheduled this winter.

Juhasz said the reason so many trials are being scheduled is that the courts were viewed as being “back open” because it was thought COVID-19 was fading away.

“I have a horrendous January. She has a horrendous January,” Juhasz said of attorney Lynn Maro.

The judges in the county’s four area courts in Boardman, Austintown, Canfield and Sebring this week set new mask mandates and social distancing rules that went into effect immediately.

The Mahoning County probate court also is requiring face coverings for anyone over age 5 and limiting the number of people permitted at the counter, Probate Judge Robert Rusu Jr. ordered.

erunyan@vindy.com

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