By Linda B. Blackford
The Kentucky General Assembly approved stiffer penalties Monday for those convicted of killing peace officers and sent the measure to Gov. Steve Beshear, who is expected to sign it into law.
Senate Bill 15 is known as the Bryan Durman Act, in honor of a Lexington police officer who was killed in 2010 by a hit-and-run driver. The driver, Glenn Doneghy, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and must serve 20 percent of his 20-year sentence before becoming eligible for parole in 2014.
What some perceived as a light sentence sparked SB 15, sponsored by Lexington Republican Alice Forgy Kerr.
The original version of the bill, approved by the Senate last month, would have required anyone convicted of second-degree manslaughter to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Defense lawyers argued that the 85 percent requirement went too far and took away discretion from judges.
The House Judiciary Committee approved a compromise version of the bill last week. In the latest version, those convicted of second-degree manslaughter of a clearly identified police officer or firefighter would have to serve 85 percent of their sentence. Those convicted in a case where the peace officer was not clearly identified would have to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.
The House approved the amended bill 95-0 Monday. The Senate then concurred with changes made by the House in a 38-0 vote and sent it to Beshear.
Durman’s widow, Brandy, attended the House’s Monday morning session but did not speak. She was accompanied by police officers from around the state.
“They’re willing to die for us, to protect us,” said Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington. “Now is our day to give a little bit back to these men and women who serve.”