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Defense fights death penalty in Rowan Sweeney murder case

YOUNGSTOWN — Attorneys for Kimonie Bryant, who is charged with aggravated murder and other offenses in the Sept. 21, 2020, killing of Rowan Sweeney, 4, in a home on Perry Street in Struthers, continue to argue that Ohio’s death penalty is unconstitutional.

At a pretrial hearing Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, defense attorney Lynn Maro made oral arguments asking that all charges against Bryant be dismissed or that the death penalty be removed as a possibility in Bryant’s case.

Bryant, 26, could get the death penalty if convicted of certain offenses in the case, but Maro told Judge Anthony D’Apolito on Tuesday that because pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell the drugs used to execute individuals sentenced to death in the state, defendants are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, which is barred by the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

She said the state has continually set execution dates for death row inmates but has had to cancel those execution dates because they do not have a the drugs used to carry out executions, resulting in extra, unnecessary anxiety for defendants as they get execution dates and then new execution dates.

Maro said that in the Bryant case, threatening to kill him in a state that has no reasonable expectation that it will carry out the execution is improper.

Jennifer McLaughlin, assistant county prosecutor, countered that litigation involving the death penalty is “a slow process” and there is “no legal basis to grant this motion.”

She said there are no court rulings to laws that say “in Ohio, if the State of Ohio cannot execute Kimonie Bryant today, you cannot allow a case to proceed as a (death penalty) case.”

McLaughlin said the last execution carried out in Ohio was in 2018.

The judge said he will take the matter under advisement and rule on it later.

McLaughlin also told the judge that Bode Technology, the Virginia private lab that is carrying out DNA analysis on evidence in the case, says it will deliver the results of the analysis to prosecutors Nov. 7.

McLaughlin has said prosecutors believe the DNA results will tell prosecutors whether Bryant was the triggerman in the case or whether co-defendant Brandon Crump Jr., 19, was, and that will determine which of the two defendants will be tried first.

erunyan@vindy.com

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