Reconstructionist explains how evidence was linked to Doneghy's SUV

Defense challenges Investigators' re-enactment

jkegley@herald-leader.comJune 24, 2011 

  • Prosecution points

    Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson and Assistant Lori Boling called several witnesses who put in doubt defense claims that Doneghy might not have been driving the vehicle that hit Durman. Neighbors and acquaintances of Doneghy testified that they saw Doneghy alone in his car shortly before and shortly after the crash. A woman named Melanie White, whose DNA was found on Doneghy's steering wheel, testified she had driven Doneghy's car two days before the crash but was not driving when it hit Durman.

    Defense points

    Defense attorney Kate Dunn questioned witnesses about where they were standing or sitting when they saw Doneghy leave and return to the apartment complex, prodding several witnesses to admit they couldn't be sure Doneghy was alone in the car or that the Doneghy's car wasn't damaged before the wreck. She questioned Detective David Richardson's decision to release White as a suspect based on inconsistent witness statements.

    Herald-Leader Staff Report

  • Wrapping it up

    Before court broke for lunch Wednesday, Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael told jurors that it would be "practically impossible" to finish the trial by Thursday given the number of witnesses who had yet to take the stand.

    All 13 jurors, including one man who had scheduled a family vacation next week, said they would stay and see the trial through.

    Ishmael said it would probably be Tuesday or Wednesday of next week before the case is submitted to the jury.

    Herald-Leader Staff Report

Several officers who investigated the collision that killed officer Bryan J. Durman testified Thursday about evidence they found linking murder defendant Glenn Doneghy's vehicle to the crash.

Sgt. Billy Richmond, supervisor of the collision reconstruction unit that investigates serious-injury and fatal crashes, also explained why a re-enactment of the crash was performed last month — more than a year after the collision.

Doneghy, 34, is accused of hitting and killing Durman, 27, who was investigating a noise complaint on North Limestone. The crash happened about 10 p.m. April 29, 2010.

Richmond said an "independent investigation" was conducted May 26 of this year by a Kentucky State Police investigator to address "differences of opinion" between Lexington police, who investigated the crash immediately afterward, and the defense's expert witness, who examined the case later.

It's not clear what differences the two had. Before the jury heard testimony from the state police trooper who conducted the re-enactment, defense attorney Kate Dunn began raising doubt about the accuracy of evidence gathered during the re-enactment.

Last week, Dunn objected to the jury being shown photos from the re-enactment showing Richmond "standing in" for Durman. She said the photos were not an accurate representation of facts. Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael ruled that the photos could be shown to the jury as long as it was explained that the officer in the photos was not Durman.

Richmond said Tuesday he was picked to stand in for Durman because he is approximately the same height and weight. He said he is about 11/2 inches taller than Durman.

Jurors viewed scratches from the inside door panel of the vehicle that Durman was investigating when he was hit. Richmond said the scratches were thought to have been caused by Durman's utility belt; police have said Durman was pinned between the open car door and the SUV that struck him before he was run over.

Dunn questioned how the re-enactment determined that the scratches came from Durman's belt, given the height difference between Richmond and Durman. She also noted that individual measurements comparing Richmond's and Durman's torso and leg heights were not taken.

"You know the importance of precise, exact measurements as the supervisor of the collision reconstruction unit," Dunn said. "It's important, is it not?"

"Yes ma'am," Richmond replied.

Dunn also asked whether wheel dollies used to push Doneghy's maroon SUV into place affected the ride height of the vehicle compared to the vehicles that were struck. Richmond said the dollies did affect the height of the vehicle, but that the dollies were lowered when the truck was in position.

Sgt. Ronald Keaton told the jury how investigators linked the evidence found at the scene — including a maroon paint chip and a headlight cover to a Chevrolet pick-up truck or SUV — to Doneghy's 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe.

When he saw the damage to Doneghy's SUV, which allegedly struck Durman and two parked cars, Keaton said, "there was no doubt that was the run vehicle."

Officer Todd Kleinjan, the lead collision-reconstruction investigator, testified that when a vehicle accidentally sideswipes something the driver was not expecting to hit, "the reaction is one of three things: they either steer sharply away from the object, they will brake hard or they will do a combination of the two things."

He told jurors there was no evidence that the driver of Doneghy's SUV swerved away or hit the brakes.

"In my opinion, the reason ... is because the operator was expecting to strike something," Kleinjan said.

Keaton told jurors about the "electronic data recorder" that was taken from Doneghy's SUV. He compared the EDR to a "black box" from an airplane. The EDR began recording the SUV's data when it detected a sudden change in acceleration at the point of impact with Durman.

Keaton said the SUV's data recorder started recording when the SUV's speed immediately dropped less than 1 mph. Keaton said that drop is consistent with other instances where vehicles have hit pedestrians and is a sign of "constant acceleration," he said.

Witnesses have testified they heard the SUV's engine rev just before the crash.

While jurors saw evidence that overwhelmingly showed Doneghy's SUV was the vehicle that ran over Durman, there was little evidence as to who was behind the wheel at the time.

Keaton and Kleinjan said that shoe prints in the dust on the car's brake pedal were compared with the shoes Doneghy was wearing when he was arrested after the crash.

Keaton said it looked like the prints matched, but he didn't know whether it was ever confirmed by forensics investigators. Kleinjan said the prints were never confirmed to have come from Doneghy's shoe.

"All of this work that you did still does not allow you to conclude who was driving the car. Is that correct?" Dunn asked.

"Correct," Kleinjan said.

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