Jurors deliberate on hit-and-run death of police officer

jkegley@herald-leader.com and jhewlett@herald-leader.comJune 30, 2011 

A 12-member jury resumed deliberations Thursday on whether Glenn Doneghy should be convicted of murder in the hit-and-run death of Lexington police officer Bryan Durman last year.

Jurors had heard 60 witnesses — many with wildly conflicting recollections and interpretations of events — testify during the past 2½ weeks. After closing arguments from defense attorney Kate Dunn and Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson on Wednesday, the case was handed to the jury about 1 p.m. Deliberations continued about 11 hours before breaking off early Thursday.

They returned to deliberations at 10 a.m.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors were given instructions about finding Doneghy guilty of murder, second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide in Durman's death, which carry maximum sentences of life in prison, 10 years in prison or five years in prison, respectively.

During lengthy and often conflicting testimony in the trial, witnesses agreed on several facts: Durman was investigating a noise complaint on a one-way portion of North Limestone about 10 p.m. April 29, 2010. He was standing on the street side of a parked vehicle when Doneghy's sport-utility vehicle hit him; the driver then drove away, leaving Durman to die in the street.

Witnesses have given conflicting testimony on more specific details, including whether Doneghy was behind the wheel at the time, how dark the area was, whether Durman's approach to the vehicle was consistent with police training, and the angle of approach of Doneghy's moving vehicle.

Before the case was turned over to jurors Wednesday, Dunn said there was no evidence the driver acted carelessly or hit the officer intentionally. If the jury finds that Doneghy was behind the wheel and that he had any responsibility in the collision, "it couldn't be anything more than reckless," she said.

Larson told the jury that witness statements put Doneghy behind the wheel before and immediately after the crash. He said Doneghy's state of mind and driving behavior showed indifference to human life. "We think that this is a wanton murder case," he said.

Dunn was first to speak to the jury. For two hours, she went back over the evidence and presented her interpretations. She began by acknowledging the wreck was "an extremely tragic matter."

Durman left behind a wife, a young son and hundreds of grieving friends and fellow officers.

"There's nothing to be said that can soothe Mrs. Durman, her little boy or the family that have been here all 2½ weeks," Dunn said.

"How do we make it up to them? The reality is we can't," she continued. "We can't do that by wrongly convicting Glenn Doneghy."

She told jurors that the area was poorly lit. She reminded them of testimony of people who live in the neighborhood who said lights were replaced after the accident. Durman was not wearing a reflective vest or using his flashlight when he was hit.

"This is the lighting," she said, holding up a photo of the scene that shows pitch blackness. "You could hardly tell there were any cars parked on the side of the street."

She said the crash was an unexpected event, similar to an animal or a child running into the street. She reminded jurors that evidence from her expert collision reconstruction witness showed the driver tried to swerve away from the collision.

"The driver of the Doneghy vehicle did not expect a police officer to be standing some 34 to 40 inches out into the travel portion of the lane," she said.

Dunn again questioned why police released Melanie White, a self-described prostitute nicknamed Juicy, after White claimed multiple times she was behind the wheel of the car when it hit the officer. Police found a mixture of White's and Doneghy's DNA on the steering wheel. In her testimony, White said that her claims were lies and that she wasn't driving the night Durman was hit.

Dunn said Doneghy might be found guilty of resisting arrest because he refused to come outside when police came to his home after the wreck, but she said he was not guilty of assaulting officers. Several officers have testified that Doneghy splashed them with an unknown chemical, but Dunn said the liquid was never identified.

Dunn said that under Kentucky law, prosecutors have to prove intent or indifference to human life for a murder charge. If prosecutors did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the case "has to be resolved in favor of Glenn Doneghy," she said.

"Officer Durman was a man of honor. He was a man of the law," she said. "If you want to do honor to Officer Durman in this case, do honor to the law."

In his closing argument, prosecutor Larson told jurors that the criminal case before them was like most criminal cases — the prosecution says the incident happened one way, while the defense says it happened another.

He said the prosecution proved Doneghy was driving the vehicle that hit Durman. Larson summarized the testimony of several key witnesses who said they saw Doneghy behind the wheel of his maroon Chevy Tahoe on the night Durman was struck. Larson said that the keys to the Tahoe were found in Doneghy's pocket when he was arrested and that no one else was seen driving Doneghy's vehicle that night.

At one point, the prosecutor questioned whether Doneghy might have been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Larson noted that one witness said she saw Doneghy "zoned out" while driving the night that Durman died.

"Could it mean he was under the influence of something?" Larson asked.

It could be inferred that drugs found in Doneghy's possession when he was arrested, including crack cocaine and marijuana, were used by Doneghy, Larson said.

He "shouldn't be driving in that condition," he said.

Larson questioned the fact that defense accident reconstructionist Sonny Cease wrote two different reports about what happened when Durman was struck. Larson pointed out that Cease was paid $14,000 for his work in the case and noted that several things weren't mentioned in Cease's findings, including the halogen headlights on Doneghy's vehicle, damage caused by a hinge, and a shoe scuff, because they "just didn't fit" in the defense's theory as to what happened.

A reconstructionist for the prosecution, he noted, found no evidence of braking or swerving by the driver of the vehicle involved, an indication the driver made no attempt to avoid Durman.

The prosecutor also talked about visibility on the night of the incident, a major point in the case. He cited the testimony of witnesses who said they could see Durman standing inside the passenger door of a parked vehicle before he was struck, or lying in the street afterward.

Larson indicated that an apparent assertion by Dunn that Durman was not careful was not true.

"Bryan Durman did what he was trained to do. He's not careless," Larson said. "It's not Bryan's fault that he died."

If the jury finds Doneghy guilty, it then will deliberate again before recommending a sentence.

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