YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Judge Anthony D’Apolito Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court urged prosecutors to step up providing discovery materials in the cases of the two main suspects in the shooting death of a four-year-old Struthers boy last September.
The judge said he understands the amount of discovery in the case is massive, but he said he wants the process to be complete so the trial of one of the defendants, Brandon Crump, 18, can begin on time in January.
The judge approved a request by prosecutors to extend the discovery deadline for Crump and co-defendant Kimonie Bryant, 24, to Oct. 4, although he ordered attorneys in the case to get together before then and work out any discovery issues.
Bryant could face the death penalty and Crump could face life in prison if they are convicted in the shooting of Rowan Sweeney, who was shot to death in the Perry Street home of his mother in a shooting that wounded four others.
At the time, Crump was first arrested in the case in November, he was only 17 and he was charged with just aggravated robbery in juvenile court. Bryant had already been indicted.
Crump was indicted for Sweeney’s death in a superseding indictment in March.
Bryant was to go on trial this month but his trial date was pushed back.
One of Crump’s attorneys, Lou DeFabio, said discovery materials in the case are massive and there is still more to be had. He said he understands prosecutors have a lot to provide, but he said she was not sure he will have enough time to study the materials once he has them, mount a defense and then see if he needs any defense experts to be ready for trial in January.
Co-defense counsel Ed Hartwig said the materials defense attorneys have been provided so far are out of order, which makes it harder to sort through and more time-consuming.
Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said her office is working to put everything together in a clear, orderly fashion to make the materials easier to go through.
Still, DeFabio stressed the amount of material is huge.
“There’s thousands and thousands of pages, and we don’t even know what’s still out there,” DeFabio said.
Another request that could throw off the trial timeline is a request by Bryant’s attorneys to have DNA evidence in the case not only examined by an independent lab but to have a separate independent observer watch that examination.
The reason it could be important in Crump’s case is because his attorneys would almost certainly want to know the results of the tests so they can use it in their defense if they need to. In fact, DeFabio said he wants an expert to study the DNA evidence also.
The problem is the lab that has the DNA will not allow anyone else to watch them test it because of their protocols for social distancing for COVID-19, McLaughlin said.
Judge D’Apolito said he could put an order on to make them allow someone to watch, but the lab is in Colorado and an order from an Ohio judge may have no affect, prosecutors said.
“We may need to talk about other options because I don’t know how we can make this happen,” McLaughlin said.
Judge D’Apolito said he doesn’t understand why an independent observer is needed to watch a test that an independent lab agreed upon on by defense attorneys in the case is performing.
Judge D’Apolito said he will ask defense attorneys if they still need an independent observer, and if they say they do, he will try and think of another option to accommodate them.