YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Judge Anthony D’Apolito ruled Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to allow DNA evidence in the murder of a 4-year-old Struthers boy to be tested by an out-of-state lab and have a defense expert view the testing via closed-circuit television.

The issue seems to solve, for now, one of the biggest hurdles in the case against one and possibly two defendants charged with the September 2020 murder of Rowan Sweeney at his mother’s Perry Street home in Struthers.

Lawyers for Kimonie Bryant, 25, who could face the death penalty if convicted of the boy’s murder, asked Judge D’Apolito to allow an independent expert to observe the testing at an independent lab because the samples given to the lab may be consumed in their entirety when they are tested.

However, Bode Technology Group, the lab selected to do the testing, does not allow visitors inside the actual lab itself to observe the testing, although it can make exceptions to allow an expert to observe the testing via closed-circuit television. Defense lawyers John Juhasz and Lynn Maro have said that their expert has told them that he must observe the testing in person.

The defense asked the judge to either order Bode to allow the expert inside to observe the testing in person or to order the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation allow an outside observer to watch the testing in person. BCI does not permit outside observers to watch testing.

Confusing matters was a recent pleading filed by the state’s Attorney General’s Office in the case, which oversees BCI. The pleading said that perhaps there would be some evidence left for defense attorneys to examine.

Prosecutors said they have no objection to an independent lab doing the testing, but they were not sure if the court should issue an order to make the labs deviate from their own policies of not allowing outside observers inside.

Judge D’Apolito had earlier asked defense lawyers if they could find a lab that would allow an outside observer to watch testing in person and Juhasz said they could not.

The testing needs to be done to determine if Bryant or one of his co-defendants, Brandon Crump, 18, will be tried first for the death of Sweeney.

Both were indicted on capital specifications, which means the death penalty can be applied if they are found guilty. However, because Crump was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed, under state law, he can not be put to death.

Bryant was originally indicted in October 2020 for Sweeney’s death that was part of a superseding indictment in March that included Crump and Andre McCoy, 21, who were also charged with Sweeney’s death.

McCoy was shot in the head in the same shooting and has not been able to be found since he was treated for his wound. Three others were also charged in that indictment with other roles in the case.

Bryant turned himself in hours after he learned he was a suspect, and Crump was arrested on a robbery charge in November 2020 on a warrant out of juvenile court and had his case bound over to common pleas court.

Judge D’Apolito also said in his order that Bode is to preserve any evidence that may be left when the testing is completed so the defense expert can test it himself.

He also asked defense attorneys to have their expert come up with any questions or concerns before the testing to see if any of those issues can be resolved.

Judge D’Apolito said the fact that neither BCI or any other lab allows outside observers to watch testing in person was one of the factors why he made the ruling.