Jury recommends 30-year sentence for Doneghy in Lexington officer's death

6 other charges sentences for four felony counts would run consecutively

jkegley@herald-leader.comJuly 1, 2011 

A jury recommended a sentence of 30 years in prison for Glenn Doneghy on Thursday on charges including second-degree manslaughter for the death of Lexington police officer Bryan Durman last year.

The recommendation marked the end of a three-week saga for jurors, attorneys and both men's families. They heard emotional and conflicting testimony from witnesses and technical details from collision reconstruction specialists who pieced together the hit-and-run crash that caused the first line-of-duty death of a Lexington officer in about 25 years.

Durman died while investigating a noise complaint at a parked vehicle on a one-way portion of North Limestone on April 29, 2010. He was standing on the passenger's side of the car facing the travel lanes when Doneghy's vehicle hit him. Witnesses have testified Durman died on impact.

Durman left behind a family including a wife, Brandy Durman, and a son, Brayden, now 6. Hundreds of Bryan Durman's fellow officers also felt the loss, demonstrated by the sea of blue uniforms that filled the courtroom as word that the jury had reached a verdict spread about 5 p.m.

Doneghy originally was charged with murder, but he was found guilty of less severe second-degree manslaughter after a 12-member jury deliberated for about 18 hours over two days.

Doneghy also was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, second-degree assault and possession of cocaine, all felonies; and possession of marijuana, fourth-degree assault and possession of drug paraphernalia, all misdemeanors.

Doneghy was found not guilty of three counts of third-degree assault; he had been accused of splashing a liquid on police officers.

The jury needed just 15 minutes to recommend the maximum sentence on each felony charge: 10 years each for manslaughter and second-degree assault, and five years each for leaving the scene of a crash and possession of cocaine — each sentence to been served consecutively for a total of 30 years in prison. He was sentenced to 12 years each on the misdemeanors, which will run concurrently.

Formal sentencing before Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael is scheduled Aug. 19.

The courtroom seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief at the conclusion of the trial, which lasted a week longer than scheduled.

"I'm very pleased that this is all over with," Brandy Durman said, adding that she hadn't seen her son much during the last three weeks and intended to take him to a water park for the Fourth of July weekend "to get away from all this."

Few others commented on the case after the trial, though officers were seen hugging family members and shaking hands on the courthouse lawn.

Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, the lead prosecutor in the case, said he had no comment.

Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, who was in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, said he didn't think it was appropriate to comment Thursday. Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said the department might release a statement in the future, but any immediate comment had to come from Larson's office.

"It's been a long and difficult process for everyone involved," said Kate Dunn, Doneghy's lead defense attorney.

After jurors returned with a verdict, they heard one more round of arguments from Larson and Dunn, and testimony from family members of both men, before deliberating on Doneghy's sentence.

Larson told the jury that the penalty phase, in which jurors recommend a sentence to the judge, was a "different ball game."

"Now we get to discuss the defendant's criminal history," he said.

Larson told jurors that Doneghy had been convicted of 12 misdemeanor crimes in Lexington since 1995. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lori Boling listed each of the charges, which ranged from harassment and possession of marijuana to fourth-degree assault and wanton endangerment.

Durman's sister Michelle Wiesman then took the stand to tell jurors briefly about Durman's childhood.

Wiesman tearfully described watching her brother grow from a shy child who didn't talk to anyone but his twin sister until he was 4 years old to a confident adult who proudly served his country in the Air Force and his community as a police officer.

Debra Hughley, Doneghy's aunt, then told jurors about her nephew, who she said was lovable and polite as a child. She said her children always looked forward to when Doneghy would come to visit from Atlanta, where he lived until his mother died when he was 11, she said.

She said she knew her nephew sometimes got into trouble but that that's not how she knew him. She saw Doneghy as a family man who studied real estate and always said "Yes, ma'am."

Dunn then thanked the jury for judging the case based on the facts they were given and for choosing manslaughter over murder.

"You tempered justice," she said. "You determined ... this was not an intentional, deliberate, evil act."

Jurors then heard for the first time the story of the death of Doneghy's mother, who was burned to death in a gas station fire in Atlanta when Doneghy was 11. He tried to smother the flames, but his mother died in front of him. That trauma, Dunn said, has led to the trouble Doneghy has been in, and she asked jurors to take it into consideration when recommending a penalty for him.

She recalled testimony from Gary Williams, a gas station attendant who said he saw Doneghy acting strangely before the crash that killed Durman. Williams told jurors Doneghy lifted a gas pump and hung it back up 7 or 8 times, then got into and out of his car raising the pump and shaking it. Prosecutors used that as evidence Doneghy might have been on drugs.

"Strange evidence. Now you know why," Dunn said. "That's the effect of what happened to him as a little boy."

Larson then spoke to jurors and asked them to give Doneghy the maximum penalty for each charge based on his prior criminal history, which showed Doneghy "just doesn't have any respect for the law."

"On his 12th chance, what did he do? He killed somebody," Larson said.

Surrounded by television cameras in the lobby of the courthouse, a weary-sounding Dunn said the trial was among the hardest she has worked on in her career as a defense attorney. She said that the verdict was one the defense team "will have to be satisfied with" and that she would discuss possible appeal options with Doneghy after everyone had gotten some rest.

"I certainly would have been much, much more disappointed if this jury had convicted my client of murder because I never thought it was that," she said. "I always thought it was a tragic accident."

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