The last thing George Huguely V's lawyer said as he left the courthouse at the end of his client's murder trial this week was that he looked "forward to some corrections on what happened here."
It is unclear whether he thought mistakes had been made by the jury — which found Huguely, 24, guilty of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the beating death of Yeardley Love, recommending a 26-year prison term — or by the legal teams. The lawyer, Francis McQ. Lawrence, did not respond to a request for comment.
He will likely seek a reduced sentence at a hearing to be held later this year, and he could file an appeal based on perceived legal errors. But responsibility for the outcome of the trial probably rests with Huguely, legal analysts said.
"Both sides had flawed presentations," said David Heilberg, a Charlottesville attorney and former president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
But the jurors "did their job. They didn't hold anything against either side, from what I could see," Heilberg said. "They looked at the actual case and the evidence, which is what they're supposed to do, and they made their decision."
Some lawyers said the prosecution filed unsupported charges in the case, which involved University of Virginia students who grew up as prep school kids, Huguely from Chevy Chase and Love from Cockeysville. Others said the attorneys nearly put the jury to sleep with dull testimony from medical experts.
The defense offered no testimony to guide the jury toward a lighter sentence recommendation during that phase of the trial. Jurors could have recommended that Huguely receive as few as five years in prison or as many as 60.
One defense attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, caused delays because of illness and impropriety: She was sick for a day and a half and then admitted to having repeatedly violated a rule against communicating with witnesses, leading to a hearing and consequent limitations on defense testimony.
The judge was criticized by some observers for rushing the case. He kept jurors well past 6 p.m. some nights and scheduled a full work day one weekend, followed by a three-day recess to accommodate the court's schedule. Others called it efficient oversight.
"There's no question, if you ask these lawyers, 'Would they do something different?' they're going to say yes," said Scott Goodman, a Charlottesville defense attorney who followed the case closely in court.
But it is that way in most cases, he said, equating the regrets to Monday morning quarterbacking. They don't necessarily rise to the level of bad lawyering.
"It's a very high standard to show," Goodman said. He and other area lawyers who designated themselves Huguely trial watchers say grounds for an appeal are "skimpy" at best.
They ticked off a short list:
•One defense witness, a medical expert, was excluded because of improper contact with Quagliana, though it is uncertain how valuable his testimony might have been.
•Jurors were told of an incident in which Huguely had allegedly put Love in a choke hold, seeming to violate rules on introducing prior misconduct. But one lawyer said it was relevant because it showed Huguely's state of mind.
•The judge seemed to be in a hurry to keep court in session. This only matters if he abused his discretion in moving things along, however, and no one seems to think he did.
At the core of the case was a question of intent and what was in Huguely's mind the night of May 2, 2010, roughly three weeks before he and Love, a fellow lacrosse player, were to graduate. Huguely had spent the day drinking, as he often did, with his father and friends, and was admittedly drunk by nightfall, when he got the idea to confront Love.
They'd been fighting intermittently for weeks about each other's infidelities, and he decided to press the issue that night. What he wound up doing, by his own admission to police, was kicking in her door as she screamed at him. He wrestled with her, shook her, restrained her, then threw her on her bed and left, taking her laptop.
She had a black eye, a bloody nose and bruising to her body when she was found several hours later in her still-tidy bedroom about 2 a.m. May 3.
Those were the basic facts of the incident, and neither side disputed them. Huguely had given police a lengthy statement about the altercation, getting caught in several lies along the way, and showing what seemed to be true shock upon learning that Love was dead. He thought he was under arrest for assault, according to a recording of the statement.