Adderall defense: Huguely's lawyers dispute cause of death
When murder suspect and UVA lacrosse player George Huguely spoke with police in May, he allegedly described an altercation with former girlfriend Yeardley Love in which her "head repeatedly hit the wall," and his lawyer called Love's death "an accident with a tragic outcome." Now, the defense is trying to prove that.
Lawyers for Huguely were in a Charlottesville court December 15 seeking access to Love's medical records, a request the prosecution calls "a fishing expedition."
Although the medical examiner determined that Love died May 3 from blunt force trauma to the head, Huguely's attorney, Fran Lawrence, argued that the cause of her death was unknown, and that's why he subpoenaed records from UVA Athletics Department, UVA Student Health, and from the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad, the last of which Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman had already agreed to enter the court record.
Amphetamines were found in Love's body, according to the toxicology report, in an amount that would be consistent with her prescription for Adderall, a stimulant widely used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, said Bill Gormley, who performed the autopsy for the Medical Examiner.
Gormley said the level of amphetamines in her blood, .05mg, didn't reach a level sufficient to cause death, but he also acknowledged that amphetamines can increase the likelihood of cardiac arrhythmia, or erratic heartbeat, something that can also, he noted, result from blunt force trauma.
Love had a blood alcohol level of .14; and in Virginia a level of .08 is considered drunk driving. Gormley testified that the amount of alcohol wouldn't cause death.
While Love's skull was not fractured, Gormley noted an array of other injuries including a three-eighths-inch hemorrhage near her right jugular vein. Gormley pointed to a spot close to the jaw line.
"Bruising that high in the neck–- it's not some place you fall down," said the doctor, demonstrating with his hand placed over his mouth and jaw how such an injury could occur. He also noted that the spot is near the carotid artery, which can initiate cardiac arrhythmia when flow is disrupted.
Gormley also noted a 2-3-inch hemorrhage on Love's scalp. "It wouldn't necessarily cause death, but it could in conjunction with other injuries," he said. And she had bleeding deep within her cortex in the center of the brain. "That injury requires some sort of force," said Gormley.
"The pattern of brain findings is unusual for blunt force," countered Jack Daniel, a Richmond pathologist who testified for the defense.
Daniel contends that some of Love's injuries stemmed from oxygen not reaching her brain, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which the Rescue Squad performed for about 25 minutes.
"Vigorous CPR caused these injuries interpreted by Dr. Gormley as primary traumatic injuries," declared Daniel.
Reviewing medical records is done as a matter of course when doing autopsies, said Daniel, who estimated he'd done around 2,000 such inquiries, and he said the records could show other drugs in Love's system that could cause arrhythmia.
Commonwealth's Attorney Chapman pointed out that Love had a prescription for Adderall with a bottle found in her backpack. "If you don't find other bottles [at the scene], you'd just be fishing in the records," he accused.
"Can you prepare [a list] of drugs that would cause arrhythmia?" Judge Bob Downer asked the defense expert.
"It would be a very long list," replied Daniel, and defense attorney Fran Lawrence reminded Downer of the "extraordinarily serious criminal offense" his client faces.
"We don't have a cause of death," said Lawrence, suggesting that his medical expert look at the records under seal and with a gag order.
"We'd be happy to draft a subpoena relating to the Adderall," said Chapman–- but not a blanket look at all the medical records, he said.
Downer, who said he'd brushed up on statutes before coming into the courtroom, said, "I'm not going to permit a fishing expedition by a doctor. I believe the better part of valor is for me to review the documents in camera." That's legalese for in private.
And after his review, Downer said, he'd allow the lawyers to argue about which records should enter the record.
Huguley's preliminary hearing–- originally slated for June and then pushed back to October–- is now slated for January 21.