CHARLOTTESVILLE — It’s been nearly two years since University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead facedown in a pool of blood on a pillow in her bed.
George Huguely’s trial in Yeardley Love’s death starts Monday with jury selection
Beginning Monday in a courtroom here, the 12-member jury and three alternates who will hear the case against the 24-year-old Huguely will be chosen from among 160 potential jurors.
By police accounts, Huguely is a willful, premeditating killer who said in a videotaped statement that he kicked through Love’s bedroom door, shook her until her head banged against a wall and left her bleeding. On his way out, he took a computer that he tossed in a trash bin, say police, who recovered the laptop.
His attorneys counter that whatever happened during that final argument in Love’s off-campus apartment was an “accident with a tragic outcome.”
The fates of the two accomplished athletes on the verge of graduation from a prominent university have attracted and held national attention. Both were well-known in the tightknit lacrosse community.
“These were two obviously talented young people who had so much to live for,” said Teresa A. Sullivan, who became U-Va. president a few months after Love’s death. “I think that’s why it has caught people’s attention, in the same way that Greek tragedy captures the imagination.”
A street near the courthouse has been closed to traffic to make room for the satellite television trucks already in place on Sunday afternoon. More than 150 reporters registered for one of 30 in-courtroom media seats or for a spot in a room where the trial will appear on closed-circuit television.
Huguely chose not to appear in person for court proceedings that preceded his trial, which would make an appearance Monday his first in a courtroom since his May 3, 2010, arrest. He was indicted in April on counts of first-degree murder, felony murder in a robbery or attempted robbery, robbery of a residence, burglary, entering a house with intent to commit a felony and grand larceny.
A first-degree murder charge carries the possibility of life in prison, but it also allows jury members to consider lesser charges if they are convinced of a defendant’s guilt but are uncertain whether a killing was planned and done with malice.
“This is a very well- and strategically charged prosecution,” said Steven Benjamin, a Richmond defense lawyer who is president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Absent a dispute about whether Huguely went to the apartment, the charges “could potentially require the defense to answer a question that might have gone unanswered: Why did he go there?” If he didn’t go to assault Love, was it to take a computer? If not for the computer, then for what? “That’s a pretty good box,” Benjamin said.
Huguely’s attorneys did not respond to several requests for interviews.
In earlier court hearings, they indicated that they will raise doubts about the state medical examiner’s finding that Love, who was 22, died of blunt-force trauma to the head. They instead plan to suggest that Love could have died from an irregular heartbeat related to Adderall, a drug used to treat attention problems for which Love had a prescription.