Attorneys for former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V of Chevy Chase have asked for a new trial, arguing that the trial judge’s decision to move forward with testimony after one defense lawyer was too ill to attend court for two days violated Huguely’s sixth amendment right to counsel of his own choosing.
The attorneys also raised several issues related to the jury, including the failure to sequester the jury and the seating of jurors who they contend expressed bias about Huguely or the case.
The retrial request was filed Friday afternoon in Charlottesville Circuit Court and will be heard during a scheduled July 29 hearing. Huguely was convicted in February of second-degree murder in the May 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend Love and was sentenced by the jury to a total 26 years.
Barring a new trial, Huguely, now 24, is set for sentencing by Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire on August 30 when Hogshire can accept or reduce the jury’s sentence.
Huguely’s two-week trial included a rare Saturday court session after Hogshire decided to recover from a two-day delay in testimony created by the illness of Rhonda Quagliana, one of the pair of attorneys representing Huguely.
Discussing the delay during the trial, Huguely’s remaining attorney, Francis McQ. Lawrence, told Hogshire that his client did not want to continue without “full representation.”
“Mr. Huguely told me: ‘I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t feel protected,’” Lawrence said.
The decision to move ahead “placed an unreasonable emphasis on expeditiousness at the expense of Mr. Huguely’s constitutional right to counsel,” the motion for a new trial contends.
With Quagliana ill, Hogshire had ruled that Lawrence could continue to question some witnesses while pushing back the testimony from expert medical witnesses for whom Quagliana had prepared.
“Mr. Huguely should never have been forced to operate under these circumstances,” that reordered witnesses appearances and left “one of his attorneys operating under the pressure of presenting complicated medical testimony he was not prepared to elicit,” the retrial motion said.
The motion also said that the Court “refused to grant legitimate strikes for cause” to remove some jurors. The decision forced the defense team to use its limited optional strikes to keep those individuals from being seated, the motion said. Among the examples cited in the motion are a juror who gave “equivocal” answers about whether his ties to the University might color his opinion, and one who said he had warned his children that it was “unsafe” to be in a local entertainment area that Huguely and others routinely visited.
Those answers, the defense team said, showed jurors might not be able to be impartial and “should have been struck in order to maintain public confidence in the judicial system.”
Legal filings also have continued in the wake of the case from the family of Love. She was 22 and like Huguely a senior and lacrosse player when she was found dead following an argument with a drunken Huguely at her off-campus apartment where he kicked through a bedroom door to reach her.
Love’s mother, Sharon Love of the Baltimore suburb of Cockeysville, has filed two civil lawsuits. In one, she claims Huguely wrongfully caused Love’s death. In the second, she said the university and several athletic department officials were negligent and ignored signs of Huguely’s erratic and violent behavior.