Huguely petitions to appeal conviction in Yeardley Love death

George Huguely V, the former University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted last year of drunkenly beating to death his girlfriend Yeardley Love, has asked the Virginia Court of Appeals to review his case.

Huguely's attorneys argued in a petition filed Tuesday that the court violated Huguely's constitutional rights. Love, the victim, was from Cockeysville.

"The circuit court's response to the intense media interest was to rush through the trial, rather than to ensure that the accused received a fair trial," Craig S. Cooley and Paul D. Clement, the attorneys, wrote in the petition. "The court made a number of erroneous rulings that valued expediency and convenience over Mr. Huguely's right to a fair trial."

The attorneys, who are asking that Huguely, 25, receive a new trial, point to three areas where the court made missteps: proceeding when one of Huguely's attorneys was sick, barring defense lawyers from asking certain questions of potential jurors and then declining to sequester them, and failing to properly define "malice" for jurors who based their verdict in part on that.

The attorneys also argued that the evidence only supported a manslaughter conviction, not second-degree murder, and that prosecutors should have told the defense team that Love's family was planning to sue Huguely.

"We have faith in our legal system and look forward to the appeals process ahead," Huguely's mother, Marta Murphy, said in a statement. "George continues to have the love and support of his family."

Huguely was convicted in February and sentenced to 23 years in prison in August. After a full day and night of drinking in May 2010, he kicked in the door to Love's bedroom. He left Love, 22, bleeding in bed after a fight, and her roommate found her body. At trial prosecutors said Huguely was out for revenge because he thought Love had been cheating on him.

In the appeal petition, defense attorneys accept that Huguely was in Love's room and wrestled with her on the floor but question whether prosecutors had enough evidence to support their argument about Huguely's motives.

The commonwealth's attorney's office for Charlottesville, which prosecuted the case, declined to comment. Judge Edward L. Hogshire who heard the case, could not be reached.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond law school, said Huguely's attorney's were right to pursue every avenue for appeal, but described Hogshire as "very experienced."

"I'd be surprised if he did something that was incorrect, but this area of the law is highly technical," he added.

Huguely's attorneys said that the trial was one of the highest-profile ever conducted in Charlottesville and that getting an impartial jury was difficult. At least six jurors suggested during selection that they would struggle to listen to the case impartially, they wrote.

"Some of those jurors had already formed opinions about this very case," they wrote. "Others had deeply rooted views about alcohol use or student athletes, or fears about how this case would affect the reputation of the University of Virginia."

Huguely's appeal team also wrote that prosecutors failed to show Huguely acted with "malice," the distinction between murder and manslaughter in Virginia law.

"Mr. Huguely's shock and disbelief when he was informed that Ms. Love had died — as well as his actions immediately before and after the altercation — thoroughly refute any suggestion that he intended to kill or seriously injure Ms. Love," they wrote.

Prosecutors have 30 days to respond to the petition, and the appeals court will then decide whether to take on the case.

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