House committee approves revised version of Bryan Durman Act

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2013 

FRANKFORT — A person who killed a police officer or firefighter would face increased prison time under changes made to a Senate bill Thursday by a House committee.

Supporters of the Bryan Durman Act, named for a fallen Lexington police officer, said that they hope the House will approve the amended measure and that the Senate will agree to the changes in the final four workdays of the 2013 legislative session. The Senate approved its version of Senate Bill 15 last month.

Durman was killed by a hit-and-run driver in April 2010 while he was on duty. Glen Doneghy, the man convicted of Durman's death, must serve 20 percent of his 20-year sentence for second-degree manslaughter before being eligible for parole. His eligibility begins in April 2014.

Under the revised version of SB 15 passed by the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, those convicted of second-degree manslaughter of a clearly identified police officer or firefighter would have to serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence. Those convicted of reckless homicide or manslaughter of a police officer or firefighter who is not clearly identified would have to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.

The changes approved by the House panel were part of a compromise worked out between police, prosecutors and defense lawyers. The original bill had required anyone convicted of second-degree manslaughter to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Defense lawyers said the 85 percent requirement for second-degree manslaughter went too far and took away discretion from judges.

Brandy Durman, Bryan Durman's widow, told the committee that the altered bill would at least protect victims of similar crimes in the future. SB 15, if passed, would not affect Doneghy's sentence.

"We want to do something to help other victims," Brandy Durman said.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington, said the compromise bill would address the inequities of the Durman case.

"Did we want this to be stronger? Yes." Kerr said.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said the legislature might need to examine inequalities in parole eligibility guidelines for other crimes later this year.

Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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