Attorneys for former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V of Chevy Chase have asked for a new trial, arguing the 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 choice.
The attorneys also raised several matters related to the jury, including the failure to sequester them and the seating of jurors who they contend expressed bias about Huguely or the case.
Their motion was filed Friday afternoon in Charlottesville Circuit Court and is scheduled to be heard at a July 29 hearing. Huguely was convicted in February of second-degree murder and grand larceny in the May 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend Love and the theft of her laptop. He was sentenced by the jury to a total of 26 years.
A retrial request is not uncommon in high-profile murder cases and the nine issues raised in the Huguely motion suggest arguments that could be raised on appeal if a new trial is not granted.
Those include assertions that prosecutors did not present enough evidence about Huguely’s intentions and the specifics of how Love was injured as the couple argued in her apartment to support a murder conviction.
Barring a new trial, Huguely, now 24, is set for sentencing by Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire on Aug. 30, when Hogshire can accept or reduce the jury’s sentence.
Huguely’s two-week trial was interrupted when Rhonda Quagliana, one of the two attorneys representing Huguely, fell ill and could not appear in court. Some testimony continued, other witnesses were delayed and Hogshire held a rare Saturday court session to get back on schedule after the break in testimony.
While discussing Quagliana’s illness 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 contends.
Hogshire had ruled that Lawrence could continue to question some witnesses while pushing back expert medical testimony for which Quagliana had prepared.
“Mr. Huguely should never have been forced to operate under these circumstances” that reordered witnesses and left Lawrence “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.