Judge refuses to drop murder charge in police officer's death

shopkins@herald-leader.comMay 13, 2010 

Glenn Doneghy

The attorney for a man charged in the hit-and-run death of a Lexington police officer was unable to convince a judge to reduce a murder charge for her client on Wednesday.

During a preliminary hearing in Fayette District Court, defense attorney Kate Dunn had argued that lesser charges — such as reckless homicide or second-degree manslaughter — would be more appropriate and reasonable for Glenn Rahan Doneghy. Doneghy, 33, is accused of hitting and killing Lexington police officer Bryan Durman, 27.

Dunn told Fayette District Judge T. Bruce Bell she realized the case involves the death of a police officer and that it has received a significant amount of publicity, "but this court has to deal with the facts."

"I don't think the Commonwealth has met its burden as far as a murder charge is concerned," Dunn told the judge.

Bell did not grant Dunn's request, and he found there was probable cause to send the case to a Fayette County grand jury. The grand jury will have to decide whether to indict Doneghy on murder or lesser charges.

Durman was hit while investigating a noise complaint on North Limestone about 10 p.m. on April 29.

Police say Doneghy struck Durman with his sport-utility vehicle and then left the scene.

Dunn said there was no evidence that Doneghy operated his SUV in extreme indifference to human life, which would support a murder charge. The attorney said there was no indication that Doneghy was driving recklessly or too fast.

Dunn said Doneghy was driving down a street she referred to as narrow and busy, and Durman was standing in the middle of the road. She questioned Lexington police Detective David Richardson, who testified in court Wednesday, about whether Durman wore anything to make himself easier to spot, such as a safety vest.

Richardson said Durman was wearing his regular uniform and was preparing to move to the sidewalk when he was struck. Durman had parked his cruiser in a lot north of the car he was investigating. Richardson said Dur man's police lights were not activated. The detective said Durman approached the car on the passenger side.

"Officer Durman was standing next to the vehicle," said Aimee Clymer-Hancock, a prosecutor with the county attorney's office. "He was not standing in the middle of the road."

Clymer-Hancock defended the charges, saying Doneghy did not attempt to brake and left the scene. But Dunn said those were separate issues that occurred after Durman was struck.

Richardson testified that witnesses reported seeing Doneghy at a gas station before the hit-and-run, and they said he was acting strange. Police reports have said drugs and alcohol might have been a factor, but Richardson said investigators had not yet received results from blood and urine tests.

Prosecutors asked Bell to set Doneghy's bond at $1 million, but the judge set it at $500,000. He is being held at the Fayette County jail.

Following the hearing, Dunn said Doneghy is "holding up OK under the circumstances." She would not comment on his mental state, although court records indicate that Doneghy's competency has been questioned in other cases and that he has been evaluated at Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center.

Dunn said Durman's death was a "terrible tragedy for our community," but he was not killed because he was a police officer or because he was investigating a noise complaint.

In addition to murder, Doneghy is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, second-degree assault of a police officer, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance suspected to be cocaine and four counts of third-degree assault of police officers.

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