George Huguely trial evidence to be shown

More than two years after Yeardley Love died and nearly three months after her ex-boyfriend, George Huguely V, was convicted of her murder, the public will get a limited look at evidence jurors weighed in the case of the University of Virginia lacrosse players.

Anyone who can make it to Charlottesville on Tuesday or Wednesday can sit in Circuit Court as some of the exhibits in the case are open to view and to note-taking — but not to copying or rebroadcast.

Huguely’s videotaped police statement and heated, profane text messages the pair exchanged over infidelities are among the evidence set to be aired in two repeat sessions. Medical records and any photos showing Love’s body will not be shown, but a complete list of what will and will not be available has not been released by the court.

Huguely, 24, of Chevy Chase, was convicted of second-degree murder in the May 2010 death of Love, 22, of Cockeysville, a few weeks before their graduation. She died of blunt force trauma to the head, a state medical examiner ruled.

Jurors sentenced Huguely to 26 years for murder and a grand larceny charge for stealing Love’s laptop — an act, he told police, meant as “collateral” to compel her to contact him. In August, Huguely is scheduled to come before a judge who can accept or lower the jury’s terms. He remains in the regional jail in Charlottesville where he has been held since his arrest.

During the February trial, only jurors were able to watch Huguely’s police interview, recorded within hours after a roommate found Love’s body on May 3, 2010, facedown on her bloody bedroom pillow in their off-campus apartment.

The tape played on a monitor turned away from spectators.

What sounded in the hushed courtroom was chilling: Huguely, hours after Love was found dead, telling detectives he had been drinking all day before going to see Love shortly before midnight on May 2, 2010. He wanted “just to talk” about their recent arguments, he said. Love yelled at him to go away, he said, but he ignored her and kicked through her locked bedroom door.

Inside, he “wrestled” to the floor with her, and “shook her a little” but “never struck her. I never hit her in the face or anything.” Love banged her own head against a wall as she pleaded with him to leave, he said.

Before he left, she was bleeding from her nose, Huguely said, and he pushed her back on her bed. “She was flopping, like a fish out of water,” but she was alive, he told detectives.

Huguely wailed when detectives finally told him Love was dead.

But with only the audio available to most of the courtroom, questions linger:

Was Huguely demonstrating how Love cowered when he said “like this” as he told a detective how Love backed into a corner of the bed?

How did his face look when he initially said he “knocked” to get into her bedroom? What was his expression when he later said, “It might have been locked. ... I think I put a hole in the door ... pretty sure.”

Was that thumping the rhythm of Huguely’s hand hitting a table as he sobbed that Love could not possibly be dead?

“I don’t believe you. ... I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t hurt her. ... I don’t believe that she is dead. I never did anything last night to her for her to be dead. She’s not dead. I did not hurt her. She’s not dead, she’s not dead, she’s not dead, she’s not dead, she’s not dead.”

And was that clicking the sound of handcuffs after a detective said, “You are under arrest”?

The chance to view Huguely’s demeanor satisfies more than curiosity. It opens to view a set of factors that some jurors weighed heavily, according to interviews they gave after the conviction.

The prosecution and defense both urged the jury to play and replay the tape and insisted that images would bear out the view each side held of Huguely: a controlling, threatening and abusive boyfriend who callously left Love bleeding, as prosecutors saw him, or, as his defense team portrayed him, a cad, but not a calculating killer, “a stupid drunk” but not an aggressive one, and a “boy athlete” who made one too many bad decisions that led to tragedy but not murder.

After the verdict, juror Ian Glomski, 39, told The Washington Post that Huguely’s grief and cries when police said Love was dead convinced most jurors that Huguely had not planned her death, which shifted deliberations away from a verdict of first-degree murder.

But Glomski said most jurors also concluded Huguely could be a violent drunk and recognized that about himself, in part because of what he wrote in what the defense called an apology letter to Love.

Jurors saw that letter, but the prosecutor and Huguely’s attorneys referred to it only fleetingly in court, leaving open when it was sent and what it said.

The exhibits to be shown Tuesday and Wednesday will not include crime scene photos in which Love’s body appears or autopsy or medical records, under guidelines given by Huguely’s trial judge, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward L. Hogshire.

It is not clear whether the exhibits will include a video shot at a bar frequented by Huguely and Love that was narrated at trial by an aunt of Huguely’s, who said it showed the couple being affectionate two days before Love’s death.

The exhibits might include the letter from Huguely to Love found in her bedroom by police and text messages they exchanged — including one in which Huguely allegedly said “I should have killed you” after Love told him she had slept with a player from another university.

The exhibits also might include items such as diagrams of Love’s apartment ,which had been referred to as police testified to what they found — and didn’t.

“That’s why seeing exhibits matter, because it lets you assess the quality of the evidence and the quality of the trial,” said Lloyd Snook, a Charlottesville defense lawyer who has tried cases in the courtroom and followed the Huguely trial closely.

“When you can’t see that, it’s a private trial with secrets, not the public trial we guarantee.”

Snook said that in Charlottesville court, exhibits — even those not related to disturbing autopsy or victim photos — are not always available for public viewing during a trial, but usually are available in the public record after jurors are dismissed.

“But we don’t usually attract all this attention because we don’t have trials that are this interesting,” Snook said.

The public viewing of some Huguely exhibits is a response to an ongoing legal challenge from The Washington Post, Gannett and several television outlets that objected to exhibits entered at trial being shielded.

In recent weeks, Sharon Love has filed a wrongful death suit against Huguely and also a suit against the university and several of its top athletic officials alleging they knew of Huguely’s drinking and “erratic” behavior and were negligent in not taking actions to address them.

Mary Pat Flaherty works on investigative and long-range stories. Her work has won numerous national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.
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