Officers in Doneghy case describe details of evidence and arrest

Defense cites handling, integrity of evidence

jkegley@herald-leader.comJune 21, 2011 

Lexington police officers testifying in the murder trial of Glenn Doneghy Monday shifted from describing the scene where officer Bryan Durman was killed last year to focusing on the scene where Doneghy was arrested at his apartment complex hours later.

Meanwhile, Defense Attorney Kate Dunn continued to cast doubt by questioning officers' methods of evidence collecting and report taking, as well as grilling officers about the visibility in the area where Durman was hit.

Doneghy is charged with murder, fleeing the scene of an accident, possession of cocaine and marijuana and four counts of assault for struggling with officers during his arrest.

Dunn made no specific accusations of police misconduct, but she brought up inconsistencies with police reports and asked officers whether evidence booked into the trunk of a police cruiser — including keys to the SUV that hit Durman — was handled properly.

Detective Billy Salyer, the first officer who took the stand Monday, showed jurors evidence from the scene of the crash, including Durman's blood-covered name badge and an inside door panel sheared off by the force of the impact.

Dunn objected to the jury's being shown a photo of a scuff mark from a shoe investigators have used to show where Durman was standing when he was hit by the maroon Chevrolet Tahoe Doneghy was allegedly driving.

The objection came after Sal yer said he did not know whether the photo was taken before or after artificial lights had been set up.

The defense has taken issue with the lighting on the stretch of North Limestone where Dur man was hit, which several witnesses have testified was poor. Dunn has said photos taken at the scene after lights were set up are not "true and accurate representations" of the lighting conditions.

She has said there is no evidence Doneghy was driving recklessly or too fast when Durman was struck. She has also said there is no evidence that Doneghy was driving at the time, though witnesses say he was alone in the car before and after the crash.

Salyer said he saw the scuff mark before police set up spotlights. He said he collected physical evidence, but another detective took the photos at a different time.

"So are you saying that picture you just viewed, you can't determine whether it's a true and accurate representation of what it purports to show?" Dunn asked.

"I can tell what's in the picture, therefore it's accurate to what I saw when I was there," Salyer said.

Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael ruled that the photo could be used as evidence.

After Salyers' testimony, five officers who responded to Doneghy's apartment on Northland Drive testified about the arrest scene. Two officers were on the stand for more than an hour each.

Detective Ben Shirley told jurors he found the SUV that hit Durman about an hour after the crash.

Shirley and another officer were investigating car break-ins in another part of town when they heard about the wreck.

Shirley was in an unmarked car — a Dodge Charger with no emergency lights, sirens or police logo — and he thought it would be useful in the search. He and his partner scoured a back part of the Lexington Legends' stadium parking lot "that might be a good area" in which to park a damaged vehicle "under cover of darkness," he said.

By chance, Shirley and his partner pulled into the parking lot of an apartment complex on Northland Drive across the street from the stadium, where they found a maroon and tan SUV with front-end damage that matched the description of the vehicle that ran over Durman.

Officers testified that they knocked on Doneghy's door for about 30 minutes but got no response from inside except for the sound of a TV. Officer Todd Phillips said it seemed as though the TV's volume was turned up when he began knocking on the door and announcing that police were outside.

Dunn asked several officers whether they knew "with certainty" at the time that the SUV was the vehicle involved in the crash. The officers testified that they did not.

Sgt. Jason Yeager said the coloring and damage of the SUV "suggested that this was in fact the vehicle from North Limestone," he said.

"Suggested. Maybe. Could have been," Dunn said.

"Likely," Yeager replied.

Yeager's police report from that night was lost. Dunn questioned whether he could accurately remember details of the arrest a year later without referring to his report. Yeager said he could.

Dunn later questioned Phillips and officer Robert Schwartz about bags of evidence that were taken from Doneghy's pockets and on the ground where officers struggled with him during his arrest.

The evidence — which included marijuana, cocaine, knives and keys that fit the SUV that hit Durman — was put in envelopes and loaded into the trunk of Schwartz's cruiser.

Dunn asked Phillips whether the envelopes were sealed. He said they were not sealed, but they were closed. Dunn asked both officers whether the trunk was clean when the evidence was put in or whether any unrelated evidence might have worked its way in.

Schwartz said he inspected his trunk before putting the items in. Phillips said there was no question that the envelopes taken out of Schwartz's trunk contained the evidence police gathered earlier.

"They looked the same as when we put them in the trunk of his car and transported them. There didn't appear to be any difference to them," Phillips said.

Doneghy's trial will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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