About three months ago a Charlottesville jury found former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, in May 2010. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the public will have access to some of the evidence that was presented during that trial.
Here are answers to some questions that you might have, and you can pose additional questions in the comments section below. I will try to answer those questions throughout the day.
Wasn’t this evidence already made public during the trial in February? No. The jury had full access to the evidence in making their decision, but the general public and reporters did not. The Charlottesville courtroom is set up differently from most courtrooms: the jury sits in two rows in front of the judge and facing the audience (to see this, take a look at the sketch to the right).
That means that spectators could not see the monitor where prosecutors played Huguely’s videotaped police statement and showed text messages that Huguely had sent other women hours before Love died. Prosecutors also gave jurors copies of heated, profane e-mails that Huguely and Love exchanged days before her death, instead of reading those e-mails aloud in court.
So why now? During the February trial, The Washington Post, Gannett and several television outlets asked to see the exhibits. Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward L. Hogshire denied that request, saying that it would have interrupted the proceedings, which were delayed by a longer-than-expected jury selection and the illness of a defense attorney. The media outlets have continued to push for access.
Why does it matter at this point? Access to this evidence should help the public evaluate the quality of the evidence presented in this case and understand why the jury made the decision that it did. Charlottesville defense lawyer Lloyd Snook told my colleague Mary Pat Flaherty: “When you can’t see that, it’s a private trial with secrets, not the public trial we guarantee.”
Is everything being released? No. The judge has decided that the public will not have access to medical records or any photos showing Love’s body, but the court has yet to release a complete list of what will or will not be available.
What is expected to be released? The viewing session is expected to begin with a viewing of Huguely’s videotaped police statement, according to a court clerk. For those who sat through the trial, this will be our first look at Huguely’s actions, facial expressions and demeanor during the emotional interview. Some other evidence that we might get to see: the profane e-mail exchange between Huguely and Love, a surveillance video from a popular bar near campus which reportedly showed Huguely and Love being affectionate toward each other the same weekend as her death, the text messages Huguely sent other women and a handwritten letter that Huguely wrote to Love apologizing for an earlier incident. There are also hundreds of photographs that were entered into evidence
How can the general public see this evidence? Anyone who ventures to the Charlottesville Circuit Court on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. or Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. can view the exhibits. Note-taking is allowed, but not recording, copying or photography.
Where is Huguely now? Huguely, now 24, remains in the regional jail in Charlottesville, where he has been since his arrest in May 2010. A jury sentenced Huguely to 26 years for second-degree murder and a grand larceny charge for stealing Love’s laptop. A judge can accept or lower that sentence. That is scheduled to happen in August. After that, Huguely will likely be moved.
Have there been civil lawsuits filed in connection with this case? Yes. Sharon Love, the victim’s mother, has sued Huguely for more than $30 million for acting with “reckless indifference,” and “negligence” in Love’s 2010 death. Love also filed a suit against the university and several of its top athletic officials alleging they knew of Huguely’s heavy drinking and “erratic, aggressive behavior,” which included two alcohol-related arrests and several attacks on fellow students, and did not properly respond. That suit seeks $29.45 million in damages.
Do you have additional questions? I invite you to ask them in the comments section below. I will try to answer as many questions as I can throughout the day.