March 21, 2021
Faces trial in murder of 4-year-old boy
A judge denied a defense request that possibility of the death penalty be removed from the aggravated murder charge Kimonie D. Bryant faces in the shooting death of Rowan Sweeney, 4.
Bryant also is charged in the attempted murder of four adults.
Attorneys for Bryant, 24, of Struthers, filed a motion seeking dismissal of the death penalty and made oral arguments during a hearing before Judge Anthony D’Apolito in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Bryant is accused of killing Rowan on Sept. 21, 2020, at the home Rowan shared with his mother and her boyfriend on Perry Street in Struthers. Bryant also is charged in the shootings of Rowan’s mother and three other adults who were there.
D’Apolito has been holding monthly hearings in the case and plans to continue to do so up to the Sept. 13 trial date.
He denied the defense’s request this week.
In their defense filing, attorneys for Bryant noted that this murder is “not a popular case” in that it involves the killing of a 4-year-old, which has prompted “Justice for Rowan” yard signs in Struthers and elsewhere.
“But the job of the lawyers and (judge) is the same in this and every case: to do the job effectively, objectively and without regard to personalities.”
It adds: “If someone else entered the home and did the shooting, as was testified to at the bindover hearing of Brandon Crump, then death would be an unjust penalty.”
Authorities have described Crump, 18, who is charged with aggravated robbery connected to the incidents that resulted in Rowan’s death, as a co-defendant of Bryant. He is not accused of shooting anyone.
Law enforcement officials have not specified how Crump’s alleged robbery is connected to the shootings, but Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said at the time Bryant was indicted that investigators believe about $5,000 in cash was in the home at the time of the shootings.
After Bryant is accused of fleeing from the home, the cash on the coffee table was gone, Gains said.
Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court has bound over Crump’s case to adult court, meaning he will be tried as an adult if a grand jury indicts him. Crump was originally charged in juvenile court because he was 17 at the time of Rowan’s death.
The filing says that when the death penalty was “reinvented” in the 1970s after being “invalidated” in most states in a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision, state legislatures sought to “rake in political capital that executing people yields.”
The filing called Ohio’s death penalty statute “vague and unconstitutional” and asked D’Apolito to remove the death penalty from Bryant’s indictment.
The filing argues that courts that have “rebuffed constitutional challenges to the death penalty have (strayed from) the concept of limited government ordained by the Constitution.”
Ohio’s death-penalty statute fails to genuinely narrow the class of individuals who are eligible for the death penalty, the filing states. “By failing to do so, the statute permits arbitrary and capricious imposition of the death penalty.”