George Huguely V

George Huguely's future could range from being freed for the weekend to spending the rest of his life in prison, depending on what the jury in his case decides. Photo courtesy Norm Shafer/AP

The jury in the case of George Huguely V, the University of Virginia lacrosse player accused of killing his then-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, has begun its deliberations today. Huguely has been charged with six different counts by Charlottesville authorities, the most severe of which easily being the count of first-degree murder.

After the prosecution rested its case about a week ago, Huguely’s defense team quickly attempted to dissuade the jury from blaming Love’s death on Huguely. While never refuting that Huguely was in Love’s apartment the night she was found dead nor disputing that the two of them had a heated lover’s quarrel, Huguely’s defense team maintains that extenuating circumstances, including Love’s inebriation, played major roles in her death.

While making their case, the prosecution brought forth medical experts that testified that Love’s body had very visible signs of major trauma. A neuropathologist even testified that her brain had two obvious lesions on it that could have only been caused by blunt force trauma.

The official cause of death from the coroner’s office was a heart arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat. The prosecution’s argument is that Huguely’s anger-infused beating of Love caused massive brain trauma which eventually led to the fatal arrhythmia. The defense asserts that, while the argument may have gotten out of hand, the presence of alcohol and narcotics in Love’s system contributed to her death.

The same doctors that testified to the extensive blunt force trauma for the prosecution also testified that Love’s blood alcohol level was approximately twice the legal limit. The coroner also noted the presence of Adderall in Love’s system, which she had been prescribed by a doctor.


George Huguely V. Photo courtesy Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress

Despite the defense’s claim that the presence of these two controlled substances played a role in Love’s death, a forensic toxicologist testified that a person’s blood alcohol level needed to be somewhere around .40 for it to be fatal and Love’s was only .14. The toxicologist also testified that the concentration of Adderall in Love’s system was only .05, with a level of .20 to .50 usually being fatal, depending on the individual.

With the amount of medical evidence presented over the course of the trial, it is worth noting that one of the members of the jury is a registered Pediatrician.

With the medical evidence somewhat clear-cut, another key part to attaining a first-degree murder conviction will be what the jury believes Huguely’s frame of mind was on the night in question. When interviewed by police shortly after her death, Huguely said that he went over to Love’s apartment just to talk, but that the conversation did not go well and quickly got out of hand.

During this tense quarrel, there is some question as to just how Love suffered such an extensive amount of brain trauma. The prosecution asserts that during the altercation Huguely grabbed Love by the neck and repeatedly shook her and, in the process, rapped her head against the wall several times. Huguely, while admitting that he “shook her a little”, claims that Love repeatedly banged her own head against the wall.

Contributing to the frame-of-mind issue will be the fact that Huguely took some of Love’s belongings, including her laptop before he left her apartment. Charlottesville authorities and the prosecution want the jury to believe that George Huguely did this in an effort to cover up his tracks by removing any emails exchanged between the two of them from the investigation. Huguely says that he took the laptop in an effort to force Love to come and talk to him face-to-face the next morning.

Of the emails in question, the one that made the biggest waves in the courtroom was one that Huguely sent to Love just a few days before she was found dead. After discovering that Love may have slept with a University of North Carolina lacrosse player, Huguely emailed Love saying “I should have killed you”.

The UNC lacrosse player in question, Mike Burns, testified in court that once while attending a party on the campus of the University of Virginia he heard a woman screaming. When he went to investigate, Burns claims he found Huguely with his arm around Love’s neck in a headlock. After breaking up the two, Burns also said that Love thanked him and said that she “couldn’t breathe”.

Also playing into Huguely’s culpability is the fact that Love was not killed immediately. According to numerous experts, Love died approximately two hours after that altercation. Huguely, having been involved in a violent conflict with Love, did not call anyone for help and simply left the apartment. Instead, Love’s dead body was found by her roommate sometime later.

As the jury was sent into deliberation, the judge gave them a menu of lesser charges on top of the count of first-degree murder for them to consider. According the, the judge offered up counts of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter as possible other charges if they believe Huguely is not guilty of first-degree murder.

In multiple statements made to the press, Huguely’s defense team has stated that, at the absolute most, their client is guilty of nothing more than involuntary manslaughter.

Depending on when the jury comes back with a decision and what the verdict is, a sentencing hearing could begin as early as later today. For now though, the rest of the world is left with nothing to do but sit and wait for a decision.

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For the latest news on the George Huguely UVA trial, follow Bryan Lienesch on twitter @bclienesch.