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George Huguely's trial was fair, prosecutor says in filing

Second-degree murder conviction in Yeardley Love's death should stand, he claims

By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

8:19 PM EDT, June 8, 2012

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Prosecutors fought claims Friday that George Huguely V — convicted of second-degree murder in the beating death of Yeardley Love, his University of Virginia girlfriend — received an unfair trial, filing a pointed response to a recent request for a new proceeding that said the defense "misses the mark."

The 37-page document, filed in the Charlottesville, Va., Circuit Court by Commonwealth Attorney Warner "Dave" Chapman, also addressed new allegations made by Huguely's attorneys earlier this week, claiming that Love's Cockeysville-based family considers her murder two years ago an accident.

"But for the defendant's actions Yeardley Love would have awakened May 3, 2010 and gone on with her life," Chapman wrote. "It wasn't an accident. It was a second-degree murder."

The response challenges defense assertions that the February trial was riddled with errors. Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire has set a hearing date on the issues for June 29, roughly two months before Huguely is to be sentenced.

Chapman declined to elaborate on his filing Friday, saying his team was "still confining our comments to the courtroom." Huguely's attorneys, Rhonda Quagliana and Francis McQ. Lawrence, did not return messages.

The defense lawyers filed a motion late last month asking that the verdict be set aside and a new trial granted because of multiple errors. The document claims, among other things:

•That the selection of jurors and their handling was flawed.

•That the trial should have been suspended when Quagliana became ill with the stomach flu.

•That there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions for grand larceny — connected to the theft of Love's laptop — and second-degree murder.

"It was clear from the evidence that Mr. Huguely should have been convicted of no more serious offense than manslaughter," Huguely's lawyers wrote.

They built on those assertions Tuesday in a separate filing that claimed prosecutors concealed the fact that Love's mother and sister, Sharon and Alexis Love, were pursing expensive civil cases when the women were witnesses during the trial.

"'The failure of the prosecutor to inform defendant of [a potential] civil suit' of which the prosecution was aware may violate" court protocol and "require a new trial," the defense lawyers wrote, quoting from a 1987 Virginia case.

Love's family filed the two $29.5 million lawsuits last month, one against Huguely and the other against the university, its athletic director and two men's lacrosse coaches (both Huguely and Love were players on the U.Va. teams). The lawsuit against Huguely claims his negligence led to "an accident for which he was responsible that resulted in the injuries and death of Love."

Defense attorneys homed in on the word "accident" and used it to suggest that Chapman didn't disclose the suits because he knew they were relying on a death theory that was "fundamentally inconsistent with the prosecution's."

Sharon Love's attorney in the civil case, Elliott Buckner, did not return a message seeking clarification Friday. And Chapman did not address the civil suits in his filing, though he emphatically denied that Love's death in her off-campus apartment was an accident.

"In the immediate aftermath of putting his foot through Yeardley Love's bedroom door to gain access, the defendant began to assault her in the bed where she was sleeping. His actions toward her were intentional and volitional, not accidental," Chapman wrote.

He also said complaints about the jury selection process were made out of context and frequently amounted to mischaracterizations, and that suspending court for Quagliana's illness, some of which she worked through, would have caused unreasonable delays.

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

twitter.com/triciabishop

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