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Donnell named top prosecutor in state

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One of two chosen for 2013

By Lisa King

Shelby County Commonwealth Attorney Laura achieved a high honor last month when she received the 2013 Outstanding Commonwealth Attorney award.

Two commonwealth attorneys are selected each year for that honor, one Republican and one Democrat; the other prosecutor named was Brent Turner, representing the 31st Judicial Circuit. Donnell’s circuit is the 53rd, representing Shelby, Anderson and Spencer counties.

Donnell said she was surprised to receive the award at the Kentucky Prosecutors Conference in Lexington. Aug. 22, presented by Attorney General Jack Conway’s office.

“It’s quite an honor, and I was very pleased,” she said.

Donnell, a graduate of the University of Louisville who earned her law degree from the University of Kentucky, is a Jessamine County native, who moved to Shelby County 15 years ago to serve as assistant commonwealth attorney. She was elected commonwealth attorney in 2006 and began her first term in January 2007.

She said the reason being selected for the award means a lot to her because Kentucky has 57 commonwealth attorneys – most have three or four counties that they serve – and they are all very talented and dedicated.

“It was a surprise because there are so many accomplished attorneys and prosecutors, so many people working for our communities, so that makes me even more proud,” she said.

Daniel Kemp, deputy communications director for the Attorney General’s office, said that Donnell was selected because she has gone above and beyond in fulfilling the duties of her office.

“The Office of the Attorney General looks very closely at the number of special prosecution cases a prosecutor accepts during the year, as well as how the prosecutor handles those cases,” he said. “When a county or commonwealth's attorney recuses himself or herself from a case, a special prosecutor will be appointed. Laura Donnell accepted five felony appointments as special prosecutor this year alone. Oftentimes, these cases are time consuming for a prosecutor. The Office of the Attorney General also bases its decision for Outstanding Commonwealth's Attorney on a recipient's record of achievement in the area where he or she serves.”

Donnell’s office handles all felony cases at the circuit court level, as well as presents cases to the grand jury for review.

She said that Shelby is the busiest of her counties, where she handles an average of felony cases per year, compared to 120 in Anderson and 70 in Spencer.

“I always consider the number one responsibility of the commonwealth’s office to be public safety,” she said. “That is my main goal, to provide public safety for my three counties, Shelby Anderson and Spencer. Our goal is to enforce the laws and see that victims of crimes are taken care of and that criminals are held to the consequences of their offenses.”