The trial of Glenn Doneghy

Defense attorney: Officer was 'careless' on the night he died

judge allows 911 call played in court: 'they hit him on purpose and took off'

jkegley@herald-leader.comJune 16, 2011 

Ronnie Hood's frantic 911 call came in just seconds after an SUV hit and killed Lexington police Officer Bryan J. Durman.

"They killed that policeman," Hood breathlessly told a 911 call-taker. "They hit him on purpose and took off."

Hood's call was played publicly for the first time Wednesday at the trial of Glenn Doneghy, the man accused of driving the Chevrolet Tahoe that ran over Durman on April 29, 2010. It was the first line-of-duty death of a Lexington officer in about 25 years.

The call was played twice — once during Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lori Boling's opening statement and once while Hood was on the witness stand.

Hood's statements that the SUV driver hit Durman "on purpose" raised the ire of Doneghy's defense team even before the jury was seated about noon Wednesday. Hood, like other witnesses who took the stand Wednesday, did not see the crash; he only heard a "boom" and then saw the SUV driving away.

Defense attorneys told jurors that evidence would prove that Durman was "careless" on the night in question — that he had approached the vehicle on the passenger's side facing a dark, one-way street. There is no solid proof Doneghy hit Durman deliberately, or even that he was driving at the time, they said.

Prosecutors said their evidence would prove that Doneghy was behind the wheel, that he fled without stopping, and that he assaulted officers during his arrest.

Wednesday morning, Defense Attorney Kate Dunn objected to prosecutors' playing Hood's "excited utterances" for a jury.

Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael overruled the motion and allowed the tape to be played after Boling argued that few 911 callers actually witness crimes, but calls are often played during trials.

Hood was one of several witnesses testifying Wednesday who were on North Limestone between Sixth and Seventh streets when Durman was hit.

Their testimony was often conflicting, but the witnesses agreed on several things: that the street lights in the area were dim; that the maroon SUV was the only car driving on the street; and that the SUV sped off after the crash, turning left from North Limestone onto Seventh Street against a red light;

They all said Durman had parked up the road in a parking lot, that his cruiser's lights and siren were not on, and that Durman was not wearing reflective clothing.

James Williams, who was sitting in a green Tahoe that was reported to have been playing loud music, testified that he wasn't playing music at all; he said he was having a party at his house, and he had gone out to the parked SUV to be by himself.

Williams said the keys weren't in the ignition, so the radio couldn't be played.

"I left the keys in the house on purpose," Williams said, because he was sitting in the car drinking beer and didn't want anyone to think he had been driving.

He said he was sitting there when Durman knocked on the window with a flashlight. He was preparing to get out of the vehicle at Durman's request when the crash happened. It was so fast, Williams didn't see anything, he said.

Williams said he knew Durman well enough that he called him by his first name. The two both worked out at the Four Seasons mixed martial arts gym, and Durman knew Williams' brother well, Williams said.

Williams was in the passenger's seat. He said no one else had been in the car with him since earlier in the day, when a friend was helping him install a sound system. Other witnesses said a woman had been in the car with Williams until Durman's cruiser passed. Several people testified that loud music was coming from the green Tahoe.

Durman's widow, Brandy Durman, also took the stand Wednesday, telling jurors of the difficulties she and her son have faced since her husband's death.

Brandy Durman's description of her husband rebutted the defense's claim that he was careless on the night he died. Bryan Durman was careful by nature — he even had a plan for what to do if someone he had arrested approached the family when he was off duty, she said.

"He was always vigilant. He noticed things that normal people wouldn't," she said.

Witness testimony followed opening statements from prosecutors and defense teams after more than two days spent selecting a jury.

Boling told jurors they would eventually hear testimony from a doctor who would tell them that Durman had "fatal injuries to his brain, his lungs, his heart and his liver."

"His death was almost instantaneous," she said.

Defense attorney Kate Dunn opened by saying that Durman was a fine officer and that his death was a tragedy.

But she said Durman should have parked behind the vehicle with his cruiser's lights on. Instead, he parked in a lot up the street and walked back.

Dunn said the commonwealth's re-enactment of the crash was based on a "hypothesis."

The defense also said police dismissed a woman who said that she — not Doneghy — was driving the truck. Dunn said that woman, Melanie White, is an "interesting character."

"For some reason satisfactory only to herself, she decided to start claiming she was the one who ran over the police officer," she said.

Dunn said White, a prostitute who goes by the name Juicy, told officers she was saying that for "street cred." Dunn questioned why that was good enough for police when White's DNA was in the car and she admitted driving the car. They interviewed her afterward and took a mouth swab, and the DNA on the swab matched DNA on Doneghy's steering wheel, Dunn said.

Dunn said police let White go because "they already got the perfect defendant."

"This is the one they want — not Melanie White," Dunn said.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.

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