- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2012

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Prosecutors in their closing arguments on Saturday portrayed George W. Huguely V as a hulking male athlete kicking in a bedroom door and scaring a young woman half his size into cowering on her bed in a corner before he killed her.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner D. Chapman held up the white door with the gaping hole that Mr. Huguely is said to have broken through to get to his onetime girlfriend, Yeardley Love, on the night she died.

“What kind of conversation starter is that? That’s the beginning of terror,” he said. “If any of you think he went in her bedroom and sat down on the bed with Yeardley Love and then she started getting aggressive … I can’t help you with that.”

Defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence in his closing arguments told jurors the defense does not dispute that Mr. Huguely, a former lacrosse player from Chevy Chase, had a hand in Love’s death. But he insisted that when Mr. Huguely went to Love’s apartment he only wanted to talk.

George had no intention of killing Yeardley,” Mr. Lawrence said. “He went there fueled with alcohol … it turned into something … and sadly and tragically contributed to her death.”

Jurors listened to more than three hours of closing arguments Saturday, the conclusion of the two-week first-degree murder trial. Deliberations will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, after a three-day holiday weekend and a grand jury day at the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse.

To find Mr. Huguely guilty of first-degree murder, jurors will have to decide whether he intended to kill Love, whether he did it maliciously and with pre-meditation. If found guilty of first-degree murder, Mr. Huguely, 24, faces life in prison.

The jury will also consider whether Mr. Huguely is guilty of felony murder, which does not require intent. That charge carries a maximum 40-year prison sentence.

If the jury believes defense arguments that Love’s death was essentially an accident, Mr. Huguely could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, for which he could be sentenced to a maximum 10 years in prison.

Love, also a lacrosse player, was found early May 3, 2010, bloodied and facedown in her bed at her off-campus apartment.

Prosecutors in the course of the trial suggested that a drunken Mr. Huguely, jealous that Love was seeing another man, stormed into Love’s apartment, broke down her bedroom door and got into a physical fight with her that included slamming her head against the wall or floor and putting his hands around her neck. They say she died slowly and alone after bleeding in her brain caused her heart to slow and eventually stop.

“He left her facedown on her bed, palms up, her arms straight on either side,” Mr. Chapman said. “Her comforter was pulled up just below her hair. This woman was lying in a mess of a pool of blood where it soaked through to the pillow case and pillow.”

As Mr. Chapman spoke, sniffling could be heard in the courtroom from Love’s family and friends, who have been present since the trial began. Mr. Chapman’s voice also wavered with emotion at times.

“It goes without saying this woman is never going to be here to speak to what happened to her,” he said.

Mr. Chapman also read a handwritten note from Mr. Huguely which was found in Love’s desk drawer after her death. In it, Mr. Huguely referenced a February 2010 incident in which a witness said he saw Mr. Huguely with a chokehold on Love.

“I can’t describe how sorry I am,” the letter said. “I’m horrified with how I behaved. … Alcohol is ruining my life. I will never act as I did that night.”

The defense proposed an alternate scenario for Love’s death, one in which she was drunk and the injuries she suffered from her confrontation with Mr. Huguely, coupled with her drunkeness, caused her to end up almost entirely facedown in her pillow, suffocated.

In a taped interview with police, Mr. Huguely said he wrestled with Love on the night of her death and put his hands on her neck, but he said she had become agitated and banged her own head against a wall.

Prosecutors have also maintained Mr. Huguely stole a laptop computer from Love’s bedside that contained an incriminating message he was trying to hide, but the defense said he removed it for “collateral” and eventually threw it in the trash.

“He was not furtive, not stealthful, not calculating,” Mr. Lawrence said. “He was stupid, unintelligent, clumsy and loud.”

Testimony in the trial indicated that Mr. Huguely walked the short distance from his apartment to Love’s apartment, was heard by a witness climbing the stairs and made enough noise kicking through the door to be heard from the apartment below.

“This was not calculating,” Mr. Lawrence said. “He is what you get. He’s a boy athlete.”

The closing arguments during a rare Saturday court session came after a strange development in the defense’s case earlier in the day.

Judge Edward Hogshire ordered a key expert witness to limit his testimony because one of the defense attorneys included him on an email to other expert witnesses about testimony in the trial.

Judge Hogshire told Dr. Ronald Uscinski that he could not talk about cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the process of restarting a person’s heart, called reperfusion.

Dr. Uscinski, a neurosurgeon, was copied on multiple emails in the past week among medical experts for the defense. He told the court that while he might have acknowledged the emails and responded to at least one, he didn’t “really specifically recall the email.”

“It’s important to understand I’m behind 4,000 unopened emails,” Dr. Uscinski said. “My thinking is, I look at them and just not think about them.” Mr. Chapman, however, asked “why wouldn’t it have been 4,001?”

“You’re an experienced witness and you know what the rules are,” Mr. Chapman said. “Why was there not a lightbulb that goes off that says that’s not right?”

The emails were brought to the attention of the prosecution by the defense.

“It was amazingly thoughtless and ‘What were you thinking?’ but not calculated,” Mr. Lawrence said. “Whatever has to happen, happens. We now have this young man on trial for his future.”

The legal dispute played out before the jury was brought into the courtroom and provided an unusual start to the day after the trial was postponed for the prior days because a defense attorney was ill.