Huguely family members, including George Huguely's parents, George Huguely IV and Marta Murphy (couple coming down the steps) exit the courthouse after Monday's hearing.
Photo by Dave McNair
On Monday, November 7, the public got a taste of what's to come during a hearing on motions concerning the medical records of slain UVA student Yeardley Love. As attorney for alleged killer George Huguely, Fran Lawrence, made his argument for gaining access to the medical records and said that Huguely didn't know Love was dead when he left her, and that there "was very little blood" at the scene, his statements prompted an immediate objection from Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman.
"I'd like to ask the judge to take control of proceedings here," Chapman demanded. "This is more like an opening statement."
Love, a fourth-year student weeks from graduation, was found dead in her apartment May 3, 2010, from what the medical examiner called blunt force trauma.
In a hearing in December, Judge Robert Downer agreed Huguely's attorneys could see records relating to her use of Adderall, a commonly prescribed stimulant, which was found in her blood, but would not allow "a fishing expedition."
Chapman argued for the closed hearing as a way to "stop additional evidence" from coming to light, and "spin on the case" of the kind that Lawrence let slip. Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire grants the medical records motion, but then asked reporters, spectators, family members, and everyone else in the courtroom to leave while they discussed what could be used and why.
Later, Hogshire ruled that there would be no live TV coverage in the courtroom, that sequestering the jury would be a "last resort" (though he said he was remaining open-minded), that a lengthy questionnaire the defense wanted for potential jurors could be much shorter and less intrusive, and that a security and "media plan" needed to be worked out for the trial. There was also a defense motion to prevent the wearing of badges and insignia in the courtroom or around the courthouse, such as the bracelet that a group called the OneLove Foundation hands out. Chapman did not object.
Hogshire also suggested that there be a "media liaison" to supply information to the press, an idea that Chapman said that he would be "happy to have nothing to do with."
Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana launched into a critique of sorts on the current state of the media, claiming that the coverage on this case was "unparalleled" and that the existence of blogs, blog commenters, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms created a "super-charged environment" of information that was often inaccurate, inflammatory, cynical, and hateful.
Indeed, if you commented on a Huguely/Love story on the Hook or Cville Weekly's websites, there's a good chance those comments are in a stack of "internet" documents Quagliana handed the court.
"Everybody is plugged in," said Quagliana, as if this were breaking news. "If you Google George Huguely on the Internet, it's extraordinary the amount of stories you'll find."
Quagliana suggested that potential jurors could suffer personal scrutiny, and could be influenced by the barrage of 24-hour coverage, both the national kind and the local chatter.
However, while hoping to limit the amount of media information absorbed by jurors, Quagliana asked the court to require potential jurors to supply more information about themselves via a questionnaire.
"We want this to determine if particular jurors have been exposed to the media," said Quagliana.
Finally, she asked that the selected jury be sequestered during the trial.
"Precedent is heavy against you on this," said Hogshire.
"Yes, I realize that," said Quagliana.
"So you want to deny them contact with their friends, their family," said Hogshire. "Their TVs, their phones, their computers..."
"Respectfully, if that's what it takes," said Quagliana. "We need to protect the sanctity of this process. This is not reality TV, this is court."
Neither Quagliana, Lawrence, Chapman, or family members stopped to speak with the members of the press gathered outside the courthouse, and they refused to answer questions as they pushed their way past reporters and TV camera men.
The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, November 18 at 4pm, at which time the make-up of the questionnaire and the 'media plan' will be argued.