CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The high-profile murder trial of former University of Virginia lacrosse player George W. Huguely V will go to a jury Wednesday, following a weekend of dramatic closing arguments.
The jury will have several options in choosing a verdict in the death of Yeardley Love — Mr. Huguely's fellow classmate and former girlfriend. To find Mr. Huguely guilty of the charge of first-degree murder, jurors will have to decide whether he intended to kill Love, whether he did it maliciously and with premeditation. If found guilty of first-degree murder, Mr. Huguely, 24, faces life in prison.
Jurors listened to more than three hours of closing arguments Saturday, the conclusion of the two-week trial. Deliberations will begin after the long holiday weekend, then grand jury day on Tuesday at the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse.
The jury also will 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 of six men and six women believes defense arguments that Love's death was essentially an accident and that Mr. Huguely went to her off-campus apartment only to talk, he could be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, for which he could be sentenced to a maximum 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors in their closing arguments portrayed Mr. Huguely as a hulking male athlete who kicked in a bedroom door and scared a young woman half his size into cowering on her bed in a corner before he killed her in the early hours of May 3, 2010.
Commonwealths 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 Love, 22.
"What kind of conversation starter is that?" he asked. "Thats the beginning of terror. 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 cant help you with that."
Defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence told jurors in his closing arguments that the defense does not dispute that Mr. Huguely, from Chevy Chase, had a hand in Love's death. But he insisted his client had no plans to harm Love, a member of the university's women's lacrosse team.
"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."
Love was found bloodied and facedown in her bed at her apartment.
Prosecutors throughout the trial suggested that a drunken Mr. Huguely, jealous that Love was seeing another man, stormed into her apartment, broke down the 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 in closing argument. "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. Chapmans 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 that was found in Loves desk drawer after her death. In it, Mr. Huguely referenced a February 2010 incident in which a witness said he saw him with a chokehold on Love.
"I cant describe how sorry I am," the letter read. "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 drunkenness, 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 also have maintained that Mr. Huguely stole a laptop computer from Loves bedside containing an incriminating message he was trying to hide. But the defense said he removed it for "collateral" and eventually threw it in the trash.
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Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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