Huguely enters court during his trial.
Huguely has been kept here in segregation since his May 3, 2010 arrest.
file photo by hawes spencer
The most vivid emotion after the 26 years meted out for the murder of almost-graduated UVA student Yeardley Love came from a little girl. Seemingly a cousin to the just-convicted George W. Huguely V, she rushed out the front door of the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse sobbing out, "That's too much."
But is it? A few notches above the 22.5-year midpoint, it's well within the allowable second-degree murder range of 5 to 40 years. Barring any reduction by Judge Edward Hogshire, the state's insistence that prisoners serve at least 85 percent of their sentences means the now 24-year-old Huguely, credited for time served, is on track to remain behind bars until June 2032– about three months before his 45th birthday.
“We wanted to put on enough years so that when he came out and had access to alcohol he would be more mature,” said juror Ian Glomski, telling the Washington Post that the panel was swayed by the experience of one member who'd worked professionally with alcoholics.
"I was impressed by how fair the jury was," says Hook legal analyst David Heilberg, praising both the second-degree verdict as well the term recommended by the seven men and five women.
"You can see the logic of the decision," continues Heilberg, noting acquittals on various secondary charges such as burglary and appreciating that just a single year came from the grand larceny conviction (for stealing the victim's computer). "I would be surprised if the judge would tamper with that sentence."
However, defense attorney Fran Lawrence will surely try.
"We look forward to some corrections in what happened here tonight," Lawrence told the reporters in the pouring rain of the evening of Wednesday, February 22 as he noted that his client was remorseful as well as "hopeful" and "spiritual."
However, as the jury noted, he was also malicious.
"It was clear that we all felt the malice was demonstrated primarily through his actions: taking physical action on another person," juror Glomski said in another interview, this one with the Charlottesville Newsplex.
One shocker emerging from the juror interviews appeared in a Slate story (by C'ville journo vet Cathy Harding) in which the jury foreperson reveals that the members had to overcome the view that Huguely was merely acting in the heat of passion– and therefore deserving just a manslaughter conviction– when he kicked down the victim's bedroom door to kill her with his bare hands.
"We decided," says foreperson Serena Gruia, "that a reasonable person of reasonable mind hears ‘Go away,’ and they do not kick down the door."
While Heilberg downplays the likelihood of reversal, a lawyer with experience defending a UVA student/killer contends that the judge's decision to exclude medical testimony (after learning of improper contact initiated by the defense) could open a door to appeal.
"I think it was prejudicial to the defendant that medical experts couldn't testify or testimony was curtailed for whatever reason," says John Zwerling, an Alexandria-based attorney who in 2004 famously convinced a Charlottesville jury to give his client, Andrew Alston, just three years for the year-earlier multiple-stabbing death of an unarmed man.
Juror Glomski, however, has indicated that medical evidence might have made little impact because Huguely set "the chain of events" leading to Love's death, as he told the Daily Progress.
As for Huguely, he may get another chance for what was so controversially missing from his February 22 sentencing hearing: mitigation statements from himself and/or loved ones. After an April hearing sets the sentencing date ("late summer," says his secretary), Judge Hogshire may allow such statements. And lawyer Zwerling, although surely aware that Lawrence found an aunt who repeatedly testified about Huguely as "Georgie," thinks the defense would be wise to provide some mitigation.
"The jury only had one picture of Huguely– a drunken, mean, stupid athlete," says Zwerling, contrasting that with the sentencing he orchestrated for Alston, whose crime ironically occurred about a block away from the 14th Street apartment complex where Huguely killed Love.
"We put on a lot of mitigation with Andrew; there was a lot going on in his life," says Zwerling, noting that Alston's brother had committed suicide and that the victim, on the night of the crime, might have appeared to be threatening the killer's other brother.
While Huguely's legal team may have foreclosed its ability to challenge the verdict by not registering a formal objection to the limitations on its medical witnesses, Zwerling says that Huguely might be able to claim "ineffective assistance of counsel" in a habeas corpus petition.
One stone left unturned right here in trial city is the research of UVA-based addiction expert Bankole Johnson who seem unimpressed with the notion of jail as therapy.
"It is nonsensical," says Johnson, "to state that a person grows out of alcoholism. Although there is a spontaneous remission rate for alcoholism, most individuals who drink severely require appropriate treatment to get better."
For Johnson, appropriate treatment often includes medications, therapies for which this neuropsychiatric researcher has won international acclaim.
"If the jury wished for an opinion regarding the impact of alcoholism with respect to mitigation, they should have been provided with expert testimony to that effect," says Johnson. "Justice demands it."
After Judge Hogshire finalizes a sentence, Huguely– now confined to the segregation unit of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail since killing Love on May 3, 2010– moves to a different world: a Virginia prison.
"He's probably going to come into one of our intake and classification centers," says Department of Corrections spokesperson Larry Traylor. "We will look at everything: his past history, his physical health, his mental health, his sentencing, his education level, and does he have any therapeutic needs. And then we will assign him to a facility that matches his security level and his needs."
Virginia operates over 40 prisons spanning six escalating levels and culminating in the special supermax segregation unit known as "Red Onion," the long-term home of Lee Boyd Malvo, the apprentice sniper whose 2001 reign of terror left a body count of 10 and led his mentor to the death penalty.
"Because of the notoriety, we might look at some sort of protective custody," says Traylor, adding that each Virginia prison contains its own segregation unit.
Will Huguely get the benefit of proximity to his family members, most of whom appear to live in the greater Washington D.C. area?
"We will certainly listen, but families don't have a say," says Traylor, "We have to determine where the best place is, and it could be a distance from the family."
For Huguely, however, distance from sex and alcohol could prove equally arduous. During trial, multiple witnesses described Huguely's final day of beer-soaked freedom with George W. Huguely IV as well as his frantic efforts to hook up with as many as four women.
In 2032, Huguely would be old enough to be sending a child– a potential George VI– off to college. However, Virginia prison rules currently allow neither alcohol nor conjugal visits.