Woman Acquitted In Ex-Husband's Death

Published: Mar. 7, 2006 at 10:05 PM EST|Updated: Jun. 22, 2006 at 4:47 PM EDT
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By Jeff Tang

(LOUISVILLE) -- An Oldham County jury deliberated eight hours Tuesday before finding Donna Fryman not guilty of murdering her ex-husband, Melvin "Dan" Fryman. She admitted shooting him three times in January of 2004, but said it was self defense, and it's now clear that the jury believed she was in fear for her life. WAVE 3's Jeff Tang reports.

Only moments after the verdict was read, Fryman's attorney, Steve Romines, said he was "ecstatic."

At one point during deliberations, the jury was deadlocked 11 to 1, and Romines said he was nervous but knew there was nothing he could do. "You just got to put your trust in a jury. That's why we have a system the way we do. And I was nervous, but what can you do about it?"

Donna Fryman never denied shooting Dan Fryman twice in the chest and once in the hand on January 12, 2004, in the half-million dollar home they shared on Ridgemoor Court in Prospect, but said she only fired to protect herself.

On Tuesday, jurors heard closing arguments after an emotional trial spanning three weeks that featured hundreds of pieces of evidence, including audio tapes and journals Fryman kept during her relationship with her husband.

The two divorced in 2002, but were still living together and co-owned an interior design business, although they had just filed bankruptcy.

"The proof in this case is so overwhelming for not guilty," Romines said.

After the verdict, Romines said: "the jury believed it."

Romines had argued the audiotapes and journals documented years of abuse and threats from Dan Fryman that culminated when he pointed a loaded gun at her on January 12, 2004.

"She believed he was going to kill her," Romines said in his closing argument. "And he was. That, to me, is reasonable ladies and gentlemen."

Romines called Donna Fryman's recollection of the shooting more consistent than the police investigation, saying detectives ignored evidence in the case. "They misrepresent and they omit and they mis-state. And they take Dan Fryman's place in terrorizing her and placing her in the shadow of the penitentiary."

Prosecutors told a different story. "Donna Fryman could never get over the fact that Dan left her for another woman and that their business had collapsed," said Oldham County Prosecutor Barry Moore.

Moore said Fryman's story didn't match the evidence. "Dan had to have been shot in two different rooms -- twice in the bedroom and once in the dining room when he was sitting or leaning over the dining room table."

Moore told jurors that Fryman staged the murder scene, wiping down gun handles, then shooting the floor to support her story.

As for the audio tapes and journals, Moore said Fryman kept them for the sole reason of building an alibi. "This was planned and it was intentional," Moore said. "That's the most disturbing aspect of this case, is that it was planned."

The jury had four charges to consider: murder, first degree manslaughter, second degree manslaughter or reckless homicide.

Now Fryman is "trying to put her life back together," Romines said. "Finally, the terror that Dan Fryman put her under is finally over as of right now. So she's going to try to move on."

Fryman said "the jury made the right decision, and justice was served." She said the jury "looked at the evidence" and saw "the truth."

Fryman said her husband "literally tortured me. And that night I thought it was going to be another night of torture. And it turned into him shooting the gun at me twice. And then it ended up a standoff, with his 9mm coming up, loaded, ready to go, aimed at me."

Fryman told us she had never used a gun before and knew nothing about guns. "I did fire three times, and I did hit him."

Online Reporter: Jeff Tang

Online Producer: Michael Dever