Murder charge in Lexington officer's death

Grand Jury decision comes as no surprise to lawyer of accused driver

kward1@herald-leader.comJune 23, 2010 

Glenn Doneghy

A Fayette County grand jury on Tuesday indicted a man on a murder charge in the hit-and-run death of a Lexington police officer.

Officer Bryan Durman, 27, was hit while investigating a noise complaint on North Limestone about 10 p.m. April 29.

Police say Glenn Rahan Doneghy, 33, struck Durman with his sport-utility vehicle and then left the scene.

The indictment says that Doneghy "knew or should have known that the accident resulted in the death or serious injury of a person," but that he didn't stop to help.

During a preliminary hearing last month in Fayette District Court, defense attorney Kate Dunn argued that lesser charges — such as reckless homicide or second-degree manslaughter — would be more appropriate and reasonable. She said there was no evidence Doneghy operated his SUV in extreme indifference to human life, which would support a murder charge. The attorney said there was no indication Doneghy was driving recklessly or too fast.

"I'm not shocked that the grand jury has returned an indictment for murder, but I certainly also know the grand jury doesn't hear the whole story," Dunn said Tuesday. "I do expect in the trial of this case that it's going to be shown quite readily that this is not murder."

Defendants in cases like Doneghy's usually are charged with one of three offenses: reckless homicide, which carries a sentence of one to five years; second-degree manslaughter, five to 10 years; or wanton murder, 20 years to life.

For charges of second-degree manslaughter and wanton murder, the accused knows his actions could cause serious injury or death but consciously disregards the risk. For a murder charge, the accused shows "extreme indifference to human life."

Juries considering the murder charge often are also asked to consider whether the defendant should be convicted of reckless homicide. Under that charge, the defendant fails to perceive a risk of serious injury or death that he should have known existed.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have said that what happens to a defendant can depend on facts such as how fast he was driving, how much he had to drink and how reckless he was.

The grand jury establishes probable cause based only on the testimony of the prosecutor. Dunn said she did not ask for Doneghy to address the grand jury because the accused is not permitted to have a lawyer present.

"There aren't very many defense attorneys who will send their clients under those circumstances," she said.

Doneghy's sister, Glynise Doneghy, declined to comment.

In addition to murder, Doneghy has been indicted on charges of leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid or assistance, second-degree assault, four counts of third-degree assault, first-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

The assault charges stem from police allegations that Doneghy attacked them as they were executing a search warrant at his apartment after Durman was hit.

Doneghy cut one with an knife and threw "a caustic substance" on three others, according to the indictment. Court records show a fifth officer sustained abrasions on his hand and elbow.

Doneghy is being held at the Fayette County jail on $500,000 bond.

Last month, Durman's widow filed a lawsuit against Doneghy. The lawsuit says that as a result of Durman's death, his wife, Brandy, "has lost the love, affection, companionship and consortium" of her husband. The lawsuit also says their 4-year-old son, Brayden, "has lost the love, affection and companionship" of his father.

Herald-Leader reporters Josh Kegley and Valarie Honeycutt Spears contributed to this story.

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