Many things troubled me about the murder trial of former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V, who last week was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his onetime-girlfriend, 22-year-old Yeardley Love.
High on that list was the inscrutable lawyering of the defense team, led by Francis McQ. Lawrence, who did everything but posit that aliens killed Love — after she finished beating her own head against the wall, suffered heart failure brought on by the ADHD drug Adderall, and/or accidentally smothered in a wet pillow following a nosebleed.
Then there was Judge Edward Hogshire, who in his eagerness to speed things along forced an obviously ill attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, to appear in court holding her stomach in pain and at one point bolting for the ladies room.
(Why take even the smallest chance of handing the defense potential grounds for appeal? With a woman dead and a man facing decades in prison, wouldn’t even the most cost-conscious of taxpayers want the case handled correctly the first time?)
What I can’t stop thinking about, though, now that the jury has recommended that Huguely spend 26 years behind bars, is the reasoning behind that recommendation, which according to one juror focused on the defendant’s drinking, and “ultimately was influenced by the professional experience of a juror who had worked with alcoholics and said Huguely needed time to grow out of his problem.”
While I do not question the 26-year recommendation itself, it beggars belief that a juror who’d worked with alcoholics was seated on a jury weighing the fate of a man who said he’d had a dozen drinks on the day in question, a defendant presented by his own attorneys as a “stupid drunk’’ who had once before attacked Love while under the influence.
And it’s simply untrue that alcoholism can be outgrown, like a food allergy, or Justin Bieber.
A Friday Washington Post story by Jenna Johnson and Mary Pat Flaherty, whose Huguely coverage was riveting, reported that one of the jurors, Ian Glomski, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s medical school, gave a detailed account of the
discussion that went on inside the jury room.
Not surprisingly, jurors did not buy the defense team’s unlikely narrative, and held Huguely reponsible for Love’s death, which an autopsy said was caused by blunt truama to the head. Huguely had acknowledged stomping up the stairs to her apartment just before midnight on May 2, 2010, and admitted kicking in her bedroom door. They ‘wrestled,’ he said after his arrest, and he might have shaken her a little, but he insisted that when he left, she was fine except for a nosebleed.
No sale on that storyline, said Glomski. But he and his fellow jurors did not see an e-mail Huguely sent Love only days before her death, saying “I should have killed you,” after learning she’d been with another guy, as proof he intended to kill her, either.
And when it came to sentencing, Glomski said, “We wanted to put on enough years, so that when he came out and had access to alcohol, he would be more mature.’’
Only, that’s not how addiction works.
Huguely could stay in jail for 50 years and be no more ‘mature’ about handling alcohol on the day of his release than on the day Love died.
Or, he could do well in a treatment program and become healthier every day. We have no way of knowing which it will be, though; nobody does.
An overwhelming number of crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Is it wise to tie any sentence to a complete guesstimate about a defendant’s likelihood of success in a prison treatment program?
This survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, reported in 2010 and based on U.S. inmates in 2006, found that 78 percent of all of the violent crimes they’d committed were alcohol and/or drug related. Sixty-five percent of all inmates meet the medical criteria for addiction services in prison, the same report said, but only 11 percent actually receive treatment.
Glomski said that though he felt terrible for Huguely, he was offended by the way the 24-year-old’s lawyers tried to present him, as a “boy athlete” guilty of making bad decisions. The lawyer “was basically saying boys will be boys. I don’t think that’s an excuse.”
Alcoholism, a disease that can and does kill, isn’t one, either.
And soothing misinformation about the likely age of onset for the young convict’s hoped-for cure of ‘maturity’ helps nobody. After all that’s happened, the least we owe Love is a clear-eyed view of her killer’s addiction.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the “She the People blog.” Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.