CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Former University of Virginia lacrosse player George W. Huguely V "had no intent to kill" his onetime girlfriend, his defense attorney said Wednesday, urging jurors to consider manslaughter charges instead of murder in the first day of the high-profile trial.
"They were going to continue their relationship, at least as friends. They always worked things out by talking," attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence said in opening statements. "George had no intention to do anything [other] than talk to her."
Mr. Huguely, 24, has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including first-degree murder, stemming from the May 3, 2010, killing of 22-year-old fellow lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
Prosecutors said the 24-year-old Chevy Chase native kicked in Love's apartment door, shook her and banged her head against a wall in the course of a violent argument. They said the confrontation was the result of an escalating feud between Mr. Huguely and Love and they produced emails traded prior to the killing that, they said, foretold the crime.
One message from Mr. Huguely contained the phrase: "I should have killed you."
"The reality is the next time George sees her alone, he killed her," Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman said. "The only other eyewitness to the altercation was killed."
Prosecutors said Mr. Huguely also took Love's laptop computer in an effort to hide the incriminating emails.
But Mr. Lawrence said Mr. Huguely wasn't even aware Love was dead until police told him later and that he took the computer so she would contact him the next day.
Mr. Lawrence said Mr. Huguely was drunk on May 3, 2010, when Love was killed. He did not dispute that there was an argument. But he said Mr. Huguely did not bang Love's head against the wall and that the meeting did not result in her death.
"There is somewhat of a discussion, and somewhat of an encounter," Mr. Lawrence said. "This is a battle over how much force is required for [Love] to be fatally injured."
Mr. Huguely's defense has suggested that Love's death was the result of a tragic accident, caused in part from a mixture of alcohol and the prescription drug Adderall. Mr. Lawrence told jurors that blood found at the base of Love's brain was not the result of a fatal beating but of later efforts to revive the woman using cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The coroner's report stated she died from blunt force trauma, and Mr. Chapman detailed a number of injuries found after Love's death.
"When they moved Yeardley's hair, they see blood," Mr. Chapman said. "There's a very visible and ugly looking injury to her right eye. It's among the lesser of her injuries."
Testimony in the case began late Wednesday, after more than two days of jury selection. Seven men and seven women were chosen to serve on the 12-member panel and as alternates for the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks. The jurors run the gamut from a University of Virginia professor who allowed a student to reschedule a test to attend Love's funeral to a man who said he initially thought the death was "an open-and-shut case."
Love, 22, of Cockeysville, Md., was found face down in a pool of blood on her pillow by roommate and teammate Caitlin Whiteley, who told the jury through tears that she had to leave the room when a friend began CPR on the unresponsive Love.
"I tried to come back in, but I noticed how discolored she was," Ms. Whiteley said. "Her face and eyes were messed up. I remember her body was still warm, but her feet were cold."
The prosecution called several witnesses on Wednesday, including Love's mother, Sharon, and her older sister, Alexis.
A student who lived in the apartment below Love's at the time of her death testified to hearing loud noises from Love's apartment the night of the killing and seeing a man matching Mr. Huguely's description leave the building about 10 minutes later.
"I thought maybe a stereo set had fallen, or a bookshelf," Anna Lehmann said of the loud bang she heard. Prosecutors said the noise was Mr. Huguely kicking down Love's bedroom door. "It was out of the norm, something that caught my attention."
"That's an assault taking place," Mr. Chapman said.
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