Jurors seek death penalty for Ryan Place shooter

Damantae Graham is taken away after the jurors were sent to deliberate by Judge Laurie Pittman at the Portage County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.

Angelo Angel

Jurors recommended the death penalty for Damantae Graham, 19, at the Portage County Common Court of Pleas Tuesday for the murder trial of Kent State student Nicholas Massa. After hearing final arguments from the prosecutor and defendant, jurors deliberated for roughly three hours. 

Graham made an unsworn statement to the jurors and witnesses.

“My heart goes out to the victim’s family,” Graham said. Graham acknowledged that “mistakes do happen” and hopes he is given the chance to learn from the incident.

Judge Laurie Pittman set the official sentencing for Tuesday, Nov. 15 when jurors will read the final sentence to Graham, or the decision could be appealed by the Judge herself, if she deems it fit.

Jurors found Graham guilty of aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated kidnapping last week for his part in the slaying of Massa on Feb. 7.

Joe Massa, Nicholas Massa’s father, said, “It’s sad that we even need to be here … it was what we were expecting coming into this.”

During the final arguments between Defense Attorney Anthony Koukoutas and Portage County Prosecutor Vic Vigluicci, both made arguments on whether or not Graham should be given the death sentence.

“Millions of kids who are physically disciplined or faced with misdemeanor don’t commit murder,” Vigluicci said to the jurors. “He voluntary made the decision to commit murder.”

Koukoutas, after hearing Vigluicci’s final argument, made the case to the jurors that the death penalty was not the appropriate sentencing for Graham and that he deserved life behind bars. 

Thomas Swales, a clinical psychologist located in Beachwood, gave his testimony explaining how Graham’s troubled upbringing could have played a pivotal role in his decision to commit the crime.

Vigluicci reminded jurors and emphasized that regardless of past history, Graham committed the “cold-blooded murder of Nick Massa.”   

Angelo Angel is a senior reporter. Contact him at [email protected].