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Wait for DNA results delays case of Struthers boy’s killing

YOUNGSTOWN — Kimonie Bryant and the attorneys in his aggravated murder case learned recently that it will be at least two more months before results of DNA testing will be available, to determine whether Bryant is the person who shot Rowan Sweeney, 4, to death in 2020 in Struthers.

Authorities believe either Bryant or Brandon Crump Jr. is the triggerman, and they hope DNA results will tell them which one.

During a hearing in Crump’s case recently in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, prosecutors learned from Bode Technology of Virginia that it will be early November before Bode wlll provide the results. Bode Technology indicated it takes 16 weeks to get the results, court officials said.

Bryant is one of three men charged in the shooting death of young Rowan on Sept. 21, 2020, in a home on Perry Street in Struthers where he was staying with his mother and her boyfriend. Two other adults were in the home, including Andre McCoy, who also is charged in Rowan’s death.

Bryant, 25; Crump, 19; and McCoy, 22, will all be tried separately if their cases go to trial. Crump was a juvenile at the time of the killing, and McCoy is still at large, being sought by U.S. Marshals and Mahoning Valley authorities.

Judge Anthony D’Apolito has continued to hold hearings in the Bryant and Crump cases almost every month since the two were indicted, despite the cases having been partly stalled while waiting for the DNA results.

DEATH PENALTY

Bryant’s lawyers have filed many motions with the court — one of them 211 pages long — in recent months. The 211-page motion asked that all charges against Bryant be dismissed or the death penalty be removed from Bryant’s case on the grounds that the death penalty in Ohio is unconstitutional.

Bryant’s attorneys argued: “The imposition of the death penalty in Ohio is not predictable or reliable, and errors are almost never cured because of inadequate, tainted review. Judges of the courts of Ohio, including the Supreme Court of Ohio, have abandoned rational and unemotional patterns of thought when reviewing death penalty cases.”

It adds, “Appellate litigation of death penalty cases in Ohio is guided less by legal reasoning and by what has every appearance of being knee-jerk political reaction.”

The Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office opposed both motions. Regarding the 211-page motion, the prosecutor’s office stated that the Ohio Supreme Court has “consistently rejected each of the defendant’s claims, including the underlying arguments associated with them.”

Another Bryant filing asked that the death penalty be removed from Bryant’s case on the grounds that when Ohio voters in 1994 approved Issue One, an Ohio constitutional amendment that eliminated one level of review of death penalty cases in the state, it made the death penalty in Ohio unconstitutional.

Gov. George Voinovich pushed for Issue One in early 1994 after the killing of officer Robert Vallandingham at the state prison in Lucasville. Voinovich expressed his desire to speed up the imposition of the death penalty as the reason for wanting Issue One approved.

Regarding the second motion, Mahoning prosecutors stated that in 1997 the Ohio Supreme Court reviewed the changes brought by Issue One “and held that all are constitutional” and also reviewed the issues again in 2020 and “rejected all of the constitutional challenges.”

In his ruling on the two motions, D’Apolito stated that he had “reviewed the long line of established cases involving the issues raised by the defendant” and was ruling against the motions.

The judge also recently ruled against a motion asking him to dismiss a count in Bryant’s indictment that accuses Bryant of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity with his co-defendants, Crump and McCoy.

D’Apolito held hearings Feb. 16 and Feb. 28 to hear testimony regarding the motion.

CONSPIRACY CHARGE

Defense attorneys John Juhasz and Lynn Maro argued that the conspiracy charge against Bryant should be dismissed because prosecutors did not at first indict Bryant on that alleged offense, even though they had evidence regarding the charge by Oct. 1, 2020, and chose not to go forward with it.

Grand jurors indicted Bryant on the conspiracy charge in March 2021 when Crump Jr. and McCoy were indicted in the case.

The additional charge accuses Bryant of conspiring with Crump and McCoy to commit an aggravated burglary or aggravated robbery at the Perry Street home.

At Bryant’s next hearing, at 2 p.m. Sept. 14, there will be another discussion involving another motion to dismiss that is still pending.

erunyan@vindy.com

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