Crib death? Defense insists Huguely merely 'contributed'

After getting taunted as a less-talented sex partner than a rival lacrosse player, George W. Huguely V sent on-again/off-again girlfriend Yeardley Love an email that he may live to regret: "I should have killed you."

However, the first airing of that potentially damaging message in Huguely's first-degree murder trial did little to deter the defense theory, which began unfolding Wednesday after nearly two years of speculation. Defense lawyer Francis McQ. Lawrence says his client's actions amount to nothing worse than involuntary manslaughter.

"We think some of the injuries happened in a fall on the floor," said Lawrence. "Everything about her horrible injuries was unintended and unexpected."

After the Commonwealth of Virginia detailed a night of heavy drinking, a kicked-in bedroom door, a stolen computer, and a victim who allegedly languished in bed for up to two hours before finally expiring from the effects of blunt-force trauma, Lawrence dismissed the cause-of-death allegation and described "terrible, terrible, terrible coincidences."

Conceding that his client's actions "contributed" to Love's death, Lawrence announced that he would provide experts to show that Love died from "positional asphyxia," a kind of accidental death that has been associated with babies smothered in cribs, mental patients squeezed by restraints, and skiers trapped in avalanches. As for the blood that pooled in Love's brain, Lawrence blamed that on 30 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"This is a shattering tragedy," acknowledged Lawrence, who– like the prosecution– spent about an hour delivering his opening arguments for the 14-person jury in Charlottesville Circuit Court on the morning of February 8.

"There are pieces of the Commonwealth's case," Lawrence acknowledged, "that are powerful: Yeardley's dead, there's a hole in the door, and Yeardley's computer is gone. But I think you'll see from the evidence the whole story."

For the Commonwealth, the story is clear. Huguely began filling with rage when informed that University of North Carolina lacrosse player Mike Burns– a young man who'd allegedly caught Huguely putting Love in a choke-hold just two months earlier– was better in bed.

"Then you go f*** Burns," fumes Huguely in an email transmitted just two days before before the fatal encounter. "That is so f***ed up on so many levels."

The prosecutor said Love described and even showed the email to friends and teammates. A Fairfax detective was allegedly able to salvage the deleted document after authorities retrieved Love's computer in the dumpster just off 14th Street, the University-area road where, in adjacent buildings, both Huguely and Love lived.

As prosecutor Dave Chapman recalled the events of May 3, 2010, Love's mother and sister, seated at the right front of the courtroom, reacted with tears.

Chapman said that Love's roommate Caity Whiteley had returned to their apartment a little over three hours after going out. Returning with a young man she didn't know too well, and wanting Love's presence, she knelt on the bed and tried to waken her friend around 2:15am.

"There was no reaction," said Chapman. "And then she moved Yeardley's hair, and she could see blood on the pillow and a very ugly and visible injury to her right eye. It was among the least of her injuries."

Noting that Huguely had initially downplayed the encounter as mere "wrestling," Chapman detailed a litany of wounds including body bruises, facial abrasions, torn mouth tissue, and the big one: brain contusions which caused so much internal bleeding that the state medical examiner blames it for shutting down her body's ability to breathe and pump blood. And there was another thing, Chapman noted in his calm– and at times understated– presentation: "His DNA was under her fingernails and hers under his."

Hook legal expert David Heilberg was in court for Chapman's opening statement. "I thought Dave covered the opening very well, very factually," he says. "He said she may have been alive for a period of time and couldn't move. That was highly effective."

Lawrence, however, suggested that blunt force trauma doesn't tell much as a cause of death. And from the lack of blood found on Huguely's clothes and the few spots found in her bedroom, "Yeardley could have moved three times," says the defense attorney.

Throughout the proceedings, the defendant, dressed in a dark blue sport coat and tie, showed no emotion.

His lawyer said that Huguely's then-impending appearance in an hour-long police interview video would show that he had no idea that Love could have died from his actions. Instead, Lawrence suggested, Huguely's actions stemmed from so much alcohol that in the hours leading up to the incident he swung and missed a golf ball at Wintergreen Resort and later spilled a bottle of wine at the C&O restaurant.

"George is really not capable of maintaining a lie," said his lawyer. "He's not complicated. He's not complex. He's a lacrosse player."

First witnesses

A large contingent of Love supporters overflowed the three rows reserved for them on the right side of the courtroom. During the two-day jury-selection process, pink was worn by Yeardley Love's mother, sister, aunt, and others on that side of the room, perhaps symbolic of the One Love Foundation set up in Yeardley's memory. On Wednesday, however, aqua seemed to be the theme for at least a handful of women there.

However,  Love's mother, the first witness called to the stand, was dressed in black with a chunky gold necklace. She said she talked to her daughter every day and described driving down to Charlottesville one spring Sunday to retrieve because Yeardley was "shaken," or upset.

After he asked how she found out about her daughter's death, Chapman put a box of tissues on the witness stand.

Love's sister Lexie, wearing an aqua coat, glared at Huguely as she walked to the witness stand to testify about arriving in Charlottesville after learning of her sister's death and about their cousin, Mary Ryan McChesney, who helped pack up Yeardley's belongings. McChesney testified about flying in from Massachusetts with her mother, Sharon Love's sister, Debbie McChesney. When she went over to Love's apartment, the roommates were there. "Their moms were packing up their stuff," she recalled.

The next three Wednesday witnesses were women who had lived at 222 14th Street, the apartment building that Love had planned to inhabit until her graduation. These women, living in places like Houston and New York, have moved on into post-graduation life.

Anna Lehman lived below the female lacrosse players who occupied apartment #9 and mentioned that noise had been a problem. "You could here people walking around upstairs," she explained. "You couldn't hear conversations, but you could hear yelling."

Lehman was studying in her living room that fateful night, and she heard footsteps go upstairs, and then a really loud sound above her.

"I thought maybe a stereo had fallen, or a bookshelf," said Lehman, who noted that about 10 minutes later, around 11:50pm, she saw a large guy in a blue t-shirt walk by.

Love's roommates Kaitlin Duff and Caity Whiteley both played lacrosse with Love and each described her as "my best friend."

Duff, who's from Bethesda, had known Huguely since middle school. She called Huguely and Love's relationship "on and off" and also was aware of Love's friendship with UNC lacrosse player Burns.

The three roommates were having lunch at Coupe DeVille's restaurant on April 27, 2010, with two tennis players, one of whom mentioned that Huguely had been been hanging out with another girl. "[Love] seemed very upset," said Duff.

And when the women's lacrosse team was in Chicago a few days later, "We were talking about the letter," said Duff, referring to the "I should have killed you" missive.

Lawrence quizzed both Duff and Whiteley about how much Love had been drinking at the Coupe DeVille's lunch and at Boylan Heights May 2, the night of her death.

"She was drinking shooters," Lawrence reminded Whiteley with transcripts from her previous testimony about the lunch. Whiteley estimated Love had four drinks on May 2.

"I said that she wasn't so drunk," said Whiteley. "She didn't seem crazy, out of control."

When Whiteley returned to the apartment around 2:15am May 3, she was with tennis player Philippe Oudshoorn, and said she went into Love's bedroom first. "I remembered she didn't have a shirt on," recalled Whiteley.

"She was sleeping under the comforter," recounted Whiteley. "I shook her shoulders. I was kneeling on the bed. I moved her hair. I saw blood on her sheets and face."

At that point, Chapman offered tissues again, as Lexie Love wept in the first row.

~

Updated 8:10pm by Lisa Provence with details from the first witnesses called in the trial. Also updated a few hours later to change "sat" to "knelt" to describe roommate's position toward bed and changed "three" to "two" days to more accurately depict interval between salacious email and fatal encounter.

Updated Feb. 9 with additional witnesses.

This story is a part of the Huguely trial coverage special.
Read more on: George Huguely

54 comments

Huguely The Stud better hope and pray that the jurors are really, really, REALLY stupid and clueless. Of course that's who defense attorneys tend to go for when the evidence is so damning. If Huguely is acquitted or only gets several years in the slammer, Obama's reelection team will make an all out effort to recruit his attorneys.

PODCAST: Hawes Spencer of The Hook discusses Day 1 of the George Huguely murder trial. http://bit.ly/xY9R6q

Lawrence is probably right -he's not complicated or complex - if he were he probably would have been capable of greater impulse control than he apparently is - and that my friends is my analysis of this story. Privileged young man with anger management and addiction issues beats up girlfriend who he thinks has found another stud better than he. No, he probably didn't go there with an intent to kill her, but yes, he was so out of control that he beat her to a pulp and killed her - at least that's what I surmise from the excellent reporting done by Mr. Spencer.

No intent to kill her Nancy Drew? The intent -" I should have killed you" in an email was there. Then his not knowing he killed her or did so much injury to her that could cause death? Slam someone's head into a door and a wall with 2x4s and you don't think that could cause someone's death? Then he takes her laptop, why? To make it look like a robbery and get rid of the evidence of his INTENT and their exchange because it made the big bad LAX player look like a lame lover? Throw in his ego too here.

The most ignorant thing he did was talk to the police, he should have shut his month and asked for an attorney.

So hope the jury sees the fact that he took the laptop, clearly shows him trying to cover his tracks.

Oh and breaking down a locked door. Most people come to a locked door and that stops them. Not someone intent to kill.

Still not convinced of his intent. How many married, engaged, or romantically involved couples have you ever known that have at one time or another said " I want to kill you " - start asking . And if he did send such an e-mail he might have wanted to get rid of it - after losing control. He had to have known that he beat the bejesus out of her, and was probably scared or in shock.

Drunk people break down doors all the time. Have you ever attended an AA meeting ?

In Virginia I can threaten to someone's face all I want - no charges if I do nothing. If I send an email even if I do nothing - then the police may show up at my door. As for couples threatening one another - dysfunctional - and obviously this relationship was too.

Drunks are at AA meetings and breaking down doors there? Okay. No, I've never attended an AA meeting because I am not a drunk.

So him being drunk, losing control and being scared because he beat the bejesus out of her is the excuse here?

He INTENDED to harm her which caused her death - the harm he did any reasonable person or unreasonable person or any drunk should KNOW could cause death.

Unfortunately you are probably correct in the way it will play out with the jury. After all this is the mentality of most out there and why domestic issues like this are never taken seriously.

tim brown is banned.

@TimBrown: Brush up on your reading comprehension skills. I never said the jurors were stupid. I said Huguely better hope they are. Your syntax is, errr, "unique". I suppose it's supposed to be funny, but you failed miserably if that was your intent.

Somebody on facebook noted that it woulda been nice if I'd provided better context for the ending, so I just tossed in one more quote from my notes that Fran Lawrence said, "George is really not capable of maintaining a lie."--hawes spencer

How does Tim Brown escape the "racially disparaging language" clause below? That is apparently his one and only purpose in posting.

@Tim Brown, if anyone wished to we could obtain the court transcript after the trial and I believe the news is reporting it blow by blow - not relying just on The Hook for my news on this trial but CNN, Yahoo, Daily Regress, WINA, WWV, Dateline and Newsplex. Together you get the full picture.

I never stated the jury was stupid, I stated that there is this mentality in society and obviously you fill the nitch too! You should probably stop taking qualudes - are they still even available now - before you end up like this dude, on trial and telling everyone they made you do it.

Other examples of drunks breaking down doors, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Jackson Pollock, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemmingway and on and on and on .

I was in the courtroom today for the entirety of the court proceedings. With the title of this article Hawes aptly raises the very point that almost had me levitating from my seat; that is, when Fran used the term "positional asphyxiation". I confess that I almost became unglued to learn that this was one of several roads down which Fran expects he can take this jury. [God willing he will be unsuccessful in that endeavor.]

The other memorable moment: when Fran referred repeatedly to the computer that Huguely stole as simply "collateral". "Collateral" for what was unclear--but it was clear that he was intimating that Huguely did not plan to deprive Yeardley permanently of her computer, but that it was simply "collateral". Perhaps Fran might also have us (or better, the jury) believe that Yeardley's horrific death was similarly nothing more than "collateral damage" from the "incident" (as Fran dismissively described it) that occurred on that fateful evening.

Fran, I daresay you stretch the true beyond any limits imaginable.

The deleted and retrieved ( by the prosecution)
e-mail may be what saves Huguely in the end - a twist of fate . It looks like the prosecution has made the case for the defense - involuntary manslaughter

From Wikipedia definition of Murder

Voluntary Manslaughter sometimes called a "Heat of Passion" murder, is any intentional killing that involved no prior intent to kill, and which was committed under such circumstances that would "cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed." Both this and second degree murder are committed on the spot, but the two differ in the magnitude of the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, a bar fight that results in death would ordinarily constitute second degree murder. If that same bar fight stemmed from a discovery of infidelity, however, it may be mitigated to voluntary manslaughter.[7]

So, is the defense attorney saying that the main intent of the visit was to cause Yeardley bodily harm and stealing the computer was just "collateral" damage? Seems like he's helping the prosecution prove malice aforethought.

The question I am left with after day one - was it voluntary or involuntary manslaughter

From Wikipedia

Involuntary Manslaughter stems from unintentional, but criminally negligent behavior. A drunk driving-related death is typically involuntary manslaughter. Note that the "unintentional" element here refers to the lack of intent to bring about the death. All three crimes above feature an intent to kill, whereas involuntary manslaughter is "unintentional," because the killer did not intend for a death to result from his intentional actions.[8]

At the close of his opening statement, Fran did everything but beg the jury to find that his client was guilty not of any of the charges that he currently faces, but is instead perhaps only guilty of involuntary manslaughter--using that term specifically. He systematically went through the litany of charges, attempting to dismiss each on the eyes of the jury, and closing with the above.

So the defense attorney says, he's just a lacrosse player. Are lacrosse player known for beating their girlfriends to death?

Oh no this is terrible. The prosecutor has overcharged Hugely. They will never be able to prove murder in the first degree. Travesty.

This article from the sidebar is fascinating given what is now unfolding :

George Wesley Huguely V is not the first UVA student to be charged with murder.
In 2003, Andrew Alston was charged with second degree murder for stabbing local firefighter Walker Sisk to death on the Corner, and many were stunned when a jury sentenced him to three years for voluntary manslaughter. "

http://www.readthehook.com/67664/playing-defense-legal-eagles-prognostic...

I fear this could be Casey Anthony all over again. I'm not sure that the prosecution has the evidence to prove premeditated/first degree murder. If the e-mail is all they have, I don't know if that's enough. Especially if the full context fo the e-mail is really "You should have killed me. I should have killed you" as I read on the Daily Progress.

Do we know yet if the jury will have the option to come back with a guilty verdict for a lesser charge, such as second degree murder or voluntary manslaughter? I know the defense is pushing involuntary manslaughter. I hope the jury can convict on any of those charges, as finding him guilty of a lesser charge is certainly better than letting him walk free, a la Casey Anthony.

ForensicFile,

"Oh no this is terrible. The prosecutor has overcharged Hugely. They will never be able to prove murder in the first degree. Travesty".

I am so afraid you're right.

Kate, they also have the felony theft. If they can prove manslaughter in the commission of a felony such as theft, that kicks in a mandatory minimum. I might have my facts a little off, but that's another avenue to a big sentence

@Meanwhile...I read that too. I bet that's why the defense is harping on the computer, to get out of that charge.

Oh my, this is classic, and I state no comment, just, wow, the statement really sums it (mentally Huguely) up totally....

"George is really not capable of maintaining a lie," said his lawyer. "He's not complicated. He's not complex. He's a lacrosse player."

...and one might surmise that a lacrosse player, by his lawyer's admission is really nothing more than an aged child that still plays with balls. Yeah, I would agree, it is not 'complex', it is get a life! A resume that has sports listed is a negative in hiring! Who cares? Answer: No one!

This is a new (for me) twist on the email mentioned today. The Baltimore Sun reports is like this:

"A week ago," Huguely allegedly wrote, "you said you would get back together with me if I stopped getting so drunk, then you go and" get intimate with another man. "I should have killed you."

Love replied: "You should have killed me? You're so [expletive] up."

It has a whole different context now that I know SHE replied...

Alcohol-Sex-Rage-Mental Instability-Athletic Culture-Internet Age.
Not Murder

Sad story but no appellate court would uphold a murder conviction. Just voluntary man and ten years. Both were super charged typical athletes used to a lot of alcohol, some drugs, and lots of casual sex. Perfect storm and it came to 14th street!

The cause of death aside - Lawrence's argument that taking the computer is collateral is nonsense , he stole it and that may be what extends his sentence.

@Nancy Drew - don't get your info on law / code of Virginia from Wikipedia. The Code is on-line and then you need legal training in order to interpret it.

The defense is putting on court room theatrics here. As for intent, how are the deleted emails helpful to him if HE deleted them in an effort to cover up what he did. How is the laptop "collateral" if he dumped it in a dumpster? Would you dump collateral in the trash? The defense if reaching here and appears to be shooting their client in the foot.

After the injuries received, how could she have covered herself up with the comforter? These are questions I hope the jury raises when they finally are given the case.

Sounds like Nancy Drew's got a crush.

That's okay, if Nancy likes George so much she can be one of those women who "befriends" him behind bars, having one of those prison weddings or something that you always see on talk shows. "I married my prisoner pen pal!"

Oy vey... the laptop "collateral" is so embarrassing to the defense if you ask me... so let me get this straight... he sees it as a way for her to call him in the morning so that maybe they can patch it all up... and so she says, "hey you have my computer? now give it back." and he doesn't even have it.... this angle makes NO sense... MAYBE it would make a little sense if he had the computer in his apartment... but... he didn't.

"Chunky gold necklace?"

Point being, not that that means anything but the reverse. Shouldn't be in the story.

Just remember the Andrew Alston case...we do not know the evidence and anything can happen wif a jury.
R.I.P.: Tom Tryon

@ boooo!...your personal attacks on other posters do nothing to bolster any comment you might have on the subject. Why sacrifice your credibility to cast disparaging remarks at someone simply because you don't agree with them? Nancy never says anything about "liking" George at all, she's merely pointing out holes in the prosecutions case. You're out of line.

How come some of Yeardly Love's family haven"t killed the PUNK by now? Don't they even care?

He has been in jail the past two years and they may respect the rule of law.

BULLSNOT!!!! THERE'S PLENTY OF CONS THAT WOULD TAKE HUGELY OUT FOR $100 IF HER DADDY AIN'T MAN ENOUGH TO DO IT.

@citygirl: As a graduate of a high profile all male prep school in Baltimore where lacrosse is an institution (not just at my alma mater but all the other rival schools), I can tell you that not all lax players beat their girlfriends. However, those who play lacrosse are treated like gods while us more intellectually and artistically inclined are simply expected to get good grades and be able to put the fact that we went to the school on our resumes and go off to college. Lacrosse is a religion in Maryland, sickly so. The players are mostly from very wealthy families and since they have egos based on their athletic prowess also think the law doesn't apply to them because they've been handed everything to them on a silver platter.

Huguely and Love got into UVA on lacrosse scholarships not because they were academically inclined--that alone should make one sick where millions of people who could actually get into UVA based on their academics only get partial scholarships. It's bs. Lacrosse culture off the field is about drinking, screwing, finding a trophy spouse, cheating on them, screwing, drinking, and then after graduating working for daddy.

Yes, it's horrible what happened to Yeardley Love, but this happens everyday somewhere in the world. The only reason this trial is getting so much coverage because it's UVA and it involves two trust fund kids who never knew how the real world works.

@Percy Kution: That would be a waste of bullets and too merciful.

@ Nancy Drew: There is something very "like, oh my God" about this case...

Anyone remember the film "Heathers?" Just saying...

Her "daddy" is dead, Jackass.

@vaughn: I was unaware, I'm not that intimate with either family. I was merely making a sociological point. Now I know why I went to college up North!

@Jefferson
My comment was directed at Percy Kution. I didnt think you said anything wrong.

@vaughn: Got it.
On another note, Georgey boy is looking thin. Proof that reducing one's alcohol intake and steroidal abuse helps you lose weight. I say forget all these diet programs, sign on and spend a year in prison...

The defense, apparently, would like the jury to see George Huguely as a clone of Lennie, the lummox who didn't know his own strength, in Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."

boooo!- perhaps NancyDrew is really Bubba, and would like your scenario...........

Grow up. Perhaps Nancy is just a little brighter than you and can express herself without dragging someone else through the mud....give it a shot.

Jefferson - you've really made some gross generalizations there. You don't know what Miss Love or Mr. Huguely's grades were, and whether or not they would have gotten into UVA on academics.

Everything I've read says that Miss Love was a very good student. And Huguely was a legacy (his grandfather went to UVA), so that would have increased his chances of getting in without lacrosse. Not that any of this really matters at this point.

I am tired of people blaming the "lacrosse culture". This is the case of an aggressive man who drank too much, and the toxic/dysfunctional relationship of Mr. Huguely and Miss Love. Of course, lacrosse was how they met each other and why they socialized (and part of the reason it's getting so much national attention) - but this has nothing to do with that. This could have happened at any college, anywhere in the US, with any people.

@Kate. True. So, why is it generating so much coverage?

@Jefferson - because it happened here. We will see the same coverage when it is time at Penn and all the others too when their cases move forward.