Former U.Va. lacrosse player pleads not guilty to murder

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A University of Virginia lacrosse player and Washington scion accused of killing a classmate and onetime girlfriend pleaded not guilty Monday, beginning a much-anticipated trial in a case that captured the attention of the nation.

George W. Huguely V, dressed in khakis and a navy blue blazer appeared in Charlottesville Circuit Court to defend himself against charges of first-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love. He is also charged with robbery, burglary in the night time, breaking and entering, grand larceny, and murder in the commission of a robbery.

Mr. Huguely, who was brought into the courthouse through a back entrance shielded by a newly erected fence, said little except to respond “yes, sir” to the judge and to enter his plea as “not guilty.”

The defense team is expected to argue that Love died from an irregular heartbeat caused in part by mixing alcohol with medication for attention-deficit disorder.

Huguely (AP Photo/The Daily Progress)

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Huguely (AP Photo/The Daily Progress) more >

Prosecutors say that on May 3, 2010, a drunken Mr. Huguely, 24, entered Love’s off-campus apartment, kicked through her bedroom door, then fatally beat her.

A roommate found Love, 22, of Cockeysville, Md., unconscious and suspected alcohol poisoning. The roommate then realized Love was face down on her pillow in a pool of blood.

Monday marked the first time Mr. Huguely was present in a courtroom since he was charged. He appeared once for a hearing via a closed-circuit television feed. Observers remarked that the athletic, 6-foot-2 Mr. Huguely looked significantly smaller than the 209 pounds he was listed as weighing on the 2010 Virginia men’s lacrosse roster.

Lawyers from both sides must pick 12 jurors and three alternatives from a pool of 160. By dinnertime Monday, they were about halfway through the culling process and are to resume the effort Tuesday.

Though nearly every potential juror had talked about the case at some point in time, or at the very least was familiar with the events leading up to the trial, there were one or two people who acknowledged knowing little about the story.

“I don’t read newspapers, I watch very little TV,” said a woman in her 50s, adding that all she knew about the case was to inaccurately identify Love as a soccer player and that she had died after “perhaps some kind of quarrel.”

“I will have empathy for anyone in this room, yet my job would be to do what the court instructs of me,” the woman said. “Having empathy and making a judgment are two different things for me.”

Another potential female juror said she worked as a parking supervisor and had interacted with some of the university’s athletes during special events.

“The behavior of some of the athletes, it’s just a little … ” she trailed off, before adding that she noticed a “feeling of entitlement, ‘I can do what I want,’ ” from some of them.

Several jurors admitted they had already formed opinions about the trial while others insisted they could be impartial, or at least understand both sides of the argument.

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