Jurors in the murder trial of George Huguely V, accused of fatally beating his former University of Virginia girlfriend two years ago, will begin deliberation in the case later this week, after two weeks of intense testimony and several delays.
The prosecution gave a lengthy and emotional statement during closing arguments Saturday, describing Huguely, 24, as a bully who couldn't control his drinking or his temper. They claim he killed Yeardley Love, a Cockeysville native, in a jealous rage, then stole her laptop to hide a threatening email trail.
There was "unmistakably an assault on her," Commonwealth's Attorney Warner D. Chapman said, noting Love's bruised body. "This is a 6-foot, 200-plus, Division 1 athlete and a 5 [foot] 4 [inch] or so, a little better than 100-pound woman."
Chapman backed away from earlier assertions that Huguely had intended to murder Love, however. He urged the jury to convict the defendant of felony murder, for allegedly committing the crime while in the process of a robbery, or of second-degree murder, which involves malice without premeditation. The former carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and the latter a maximum of 40 years.
The defense lobbied for a finding of involuntary manslaughter, which carries up to a 10-year prison term. Huguely's lawyer, Francis McQ. Lawrence, acknowledged in his closing statement that his client "bears responsibility" for Love's death, in combination with her own alcohol use, he said. But he added that Huguely's actions were "not furtive, not stealthful, not calculated, not intentional" that fateful night.
Huguely simply wanted to talk with Love about relationship issues when he went to her off-campus apartment, Lawrence said. But instead of approaching the situation as a rational adult, he kicked in her door, and was "stupid, unthoughtful, loud and clumsy and intoxicated."
Said Lawrence: "He is what you get; he's a boy athlete."
Huguely, who's been held in jail since his arrest May 3, 2010, declined to testify.
The jury, which will begin deliberation Wednesday to accommodate the court's schedule, will consider the attorneys' competing arguments in combination with the evidence presented during the trial. Evidence includes testimony from nearly 50 witnesses: medical reports, autopsy photos and Huguely's hour-long, recorded statement to police, in which he admits consuming more than 15 drinks before engaging in an altercation with Love.
Court started late Saturday because one of Huguely's defense attorneys, Rhonda Quagliana, admitted to violating a rule on communicating with witnesses. The disclosure led to an emergency hearing during which the judge placed restrictions on the topics that one of the medical experts could address.
Quagliana sent emails to at least three medical experts, scheduled to appear for the defense, summarizing testimony from prosecution physicians. The messages violate a communications rule meant to prevent the influence of testimony, the judge found.
Chapman began his closing arguments shortly before 3 p.m. and spoke passionately for an hour and a half. His voice broke immediately."Yeardley Love made a decision that was life-changing for her, her mother and her sister. She decided she would remain at home rather than go back out," Chapman said. "That was good judgment ... it turned out to be fatal."
Huguely's friends and former lacrosse teammates testified that his drinking was "ridiculous." Huguely got so drunk at a party in February that year, that he frightened himself, wrestling Yeardley to his bed and holding her so that she couldn't breathe, according to testimony.
"I can't describe how sorry I am for what happened," he wrote to Love in a letter about the incident, found in her dresser. "I'm scared to know I can get that drunk to the point where I cannot control how I behave."
Chapman said that was a precursor to the attack that killed her.
She went to bed that night, May 2, 2010, around 10:30. She had been celebrating for much of the day and was already intoxicated. So Love locked her bedroom door, and settled in.
Huguely told police he kicked the door in close to midnight.
"What kind of conversation starter is that?" Chapman demanded of jurors. "That's the beginning of terror, ladies and gentlemen. It's terrifying. It's just unimaginable what that woman went through and you know it."
Huguely was slurring drunk that day, according to witnesses, and angry over a recent infidelity by Love. He had sent her emails the week before saying he "should have killed her" for the indiscretion, and was apparently still fuming. He stormed over to her apartment when his roommates went on a beer run, about 11:40 p.m. When he returned, Huguely said he had been at a neighbor's.
When Love's roommate found her body, about 2:15 a.m. May 3, 2010, she had a black eye, a severe scrape on her chin and bruises throughout her body, some in the shape and size of fingertips. Her laptop was missing; Huguely had taken it on his way out.
Huguely was arrested that morning and admitted getting into an altercation with Love. He told police he shook her and wrestled with her and held her down as her nose bled. The statement was recorded and played for the jury.
Chapman advised jurors to watch it repeatedly while deliberating. So did Lawrence, claiming it shows a young man genuinely surprised to learn that Love is dead.
"There's sorrow and loss and sadness on this side of the courtroom, too," Lawrence said. He claims Huguely never intended to rob or kill Love, but things got out of hand.
"George bears responsibility for her death," Lawrence said, claiming that the assault combined with alcohol caused Love to suffocate on her own bloody pillow.
"It's just very different from the manner in which the commonwealth portrays it," he said, calling prosecutors "zealous" and suggesting that they had overreached in the charges brought against Huguely. He described Huguely and Love's world as a "20-something ghetto" with "lots of drama going around," where kicking in a door is not out of line.
The email threatening death was "hyperbole," Lawrence said, adding that most of us have "touched somebody [we] loved in a rude manner."
Chapman, as the prosecutor, had the final say.
Huguely "may not have known that he killed" Love, Chapman said, "but he sure as heck knew that he" hurt her.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun