Tuesday testimony: Huguely jurors get lesson in brain bleeding
Jurors became students Tuesday morning as Medical College of Virginia-based brain doctor Christine Fuller testified about the various cuts and blood she found in the brain of Yeardley Love, the UVA students whose 2010 death launched the trial of the century, a murder case against her alleged killer, George W. Huguely V.
Likening Love's injuries to those that might be sustained in an automobile accident, Dr. Fuller said that torque or sudden deceleration can cause the soft brain tissue to bang against the bony interior surfaces of the skull.
"It's this acceleration/deceleration thing," said Fuller, holding a model of a human brain on the witness stand. "This is how I explain it to my students."
Anticipating one angle of defense, prosecutor Dave Chapman asked whether such injuries– contusions and hemorrhages– might be caused from a fall.
"Usually, it has to be a fall from a height," responded Fuller, "not just a ground-level fall."
Fuller was asked whether CPR– another promised line of defense– can cause such bleeding near the brain stem.
"If you find hemorrhages in that location," said Fuller, "it's trauma– period."
The 24-year-old Huguely, charged with first-degree murder, has already admitted on tape to kicking in the door to the carpeted bedroom of the sleeping Love in order to "talk." His defense team has indicated that it plans to show that Love may have died from a fall– or from a heart arrhythmia or from positional asphyxia.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana attempted to press Fuller to concede that a process called "reperfusion" might have been responsible for Love's death, but Fuller said that Love's brain showed no such evidence.
During her direct testimony, Dr. Fuller said that the blood that leaked into Love's brain might have caused the young woman some health problems including headaches, seizures, and even strokes.
"Unfortunately," said Fuller, "she didn't live that long."
The morning's testimony concluded with another doctor, UVA's Beatriz Lopes, telling the jury that the injuries to Love's brain swelled it with so much damaging fluid that it weighed an abnormally high 1420 grams, when the upper weight for a 22-year-old woman should be 1200 grams.
After lunch, Bill Gormley, the man who performed the autopsy and who testified the previous day, returned to the witness stand to finally render his opinion that the specific "mechanism" of death was arrhythmia, a cessation of Love's heartbeat, caused by the damage to the brain.
–story updated at 12:11pm and again at 12:46pmThis story is a part of the Huguely trial coverage special.Read more on: George Huguely