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.
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.
According to court records, Mr. Huguely told investigators he repeatedly shook Love, who banged her head on a door or wall. The cause of Love's death was listed as blunt-force trauma.
Investigators said Mr. Huguely was cooperative and seemed unaware that Love, a member of Virginia's women's lacrosse team, was dead until they informed him. Mr. Huguely also told them he took Love's missing laptop and dumped it in a trash can. Mr. Huguely was arrested the day of the killing and has been in jail since.
A potential male juror told the courtroom that he was on the Virginia faculty and that he and his three sons are athletes.
"I know the violence of the games. I was there, my sons were there, and, boy, was I scared."
The man did pause, however, when the defense asked him how he would feel returning to work after handing down a potential not-guilty verdict.
"I think I could handle it," he said.
A profile of Mr. Huguely, who attended the exclusive Landon School in Bethesda, as a hard-drinking and occasionally violent young man emerged soon after his arrest.
Police reports show the former high school quarterback and All-American lacrosse star was arrested in 2008 for public drunkenness and resisting arrest outside a fraternity house near the campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
A female police officer reportedly needed a Taser to subdue Mr. Huguely. He reportedly yelled in the police station "I'll kill all of y'all. I'm not going to jail."
Mr. Huguely later pleaded guilty, receiving probation and a 60-day suspended sentence.
In 2007, an intoxicated Mr. Huguely was reportedly rescued offshore from his family's Florida vacation home after he and his father quarreled on a yacht and Mr. Huguely jumped overboard.
The afternoon before Love's death, Mr. Huguely attended a father-son golf outing at which he reportedly was drinking heavily.
Mr. Huguely's family runs the Washington-area Galliher & Huguely building supply company.
Outside the courtroom, a typical Monday in the historic college town was interrupted by the whirring of satellite vans parked around town and news crews running through live shots.
Officials said they've received about 150 requests for media credentials. News vans began lining streets on Sunday and a remote viewing location was set up across the street for spillover from the 200-seat courthouse.
"I wish they'd find a different place to park," longtime resident Pete Wagner said as he considered the news vans parked several blocks away.
The 58-year-old said it didn't seem like the May 2010 events were that long ago and that he didn't think the trial would provide closure.
"It's a really unfortunate thing that happened," he said.
Dale Kingrea said she lives three or four blocks away from the courthouse, and when it comes to all the media in town, "I just close my door and just let it go."
The 74-year-old said she had been following the story for some time and she was wondering when the trial would actually begin.
"I think it's a shame," Ms. Kingrea said. "They were both lacrosse players and what makes it bad is they were so young. They had so much life ahead."
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