When the judge gave him a 22-year sentence, Manson Bryant let loose with cusswords and accusations of racism aimed at Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene Lucci.
Lucci responded by adding six years to the sentence – a move challenged by Bryant in an appeal that made it to the Ohio Supreme Court.
In a 4-3 decision issued Tuesday, the high court said a judge can't add time to a sentence because of an angry, disrespectful outburst. Instead, that's more appropriately addressed through a contempt of court charge.
"Because a defendant’s display of disrespect toward a trial court is not a permissible sentencing factor that the court may consider under (Ohio law), we conclude that the six-year increase in Bryant’s sentence is contrary to law," wrote Justice Melody Stewart, who was joined by fellow Democrats and Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican.
Bryant's courtroom outburst and the judge's response made national headlines in March 2019. He let out a string of expletives and called the judge racist.
Lucci responded by increasing Bryant's sentence to 28 years in prison, saying: "I was giving him remorse, a certain amount of remorse in mitigation of the sentence. (Bryant) has shown me that he has no remorse whatsoever, and therefore the Court determines that maximum imprisonment is needed."
Stewart acknowledged the tough job of a trial court judge, writing: "even the most experienced, even-keeled, and unflappable trial-court judge is subject, every day, to stressors that may generate a range of emotions."
"We need to start by acknowledging what is uncomfortable to acknowledge: that trial-court judges do get offended and angry, that anger clouds judgment, and that clouded judgment often results in unjust outcomes," Stewart wrote.
Justice Sharon Kennedy, a Republican running to replace O'Connor as chief justice, disagreed, saying Lucci had the discretion to determine whether Bryant had expressed remorse or not. Justices Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer joined Kennedy's dissent, which also said the Ohio Supreme Court didn't have the authority to weigh in.
Read the decision here:
Laura Bischoff and Jessie Balmert are reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Supreme Court: Profanity-laced outburst can't increase sentence