George Huguely murder trial delayed because of lawyer’s illness

After days of seeing Yeardley Love through the prism of crime scene photos and autopsy shots, jurors in the murder trial of George Huguely V on Friday saw Love as she was when she was alive: vibrant and engaging.

They watched a video shot at a restaurant on a Saturday night in May 2010, little more than a day before Love was found dead in her off-campus apartment. The tape showed Love, wearing a black-and-white tank top, briefly holding hands with Huguely. It showed her hugging some of his relatives who had come to watch an end-of-season lacrosse match for Huguely and his University of Virginia teammates.

Alina Massaro, Huguely’s aunt and godmother, testified about the video as it played, calling Huguely “Georgie” as she described how Love talked with her and her teenage children that night. As Massaro narrated, she pointed out Huguely with his arm around his mother, Love with her hand in his, Love with her arm around Huguely.

The video, which jurors watched on a monitor turned away from the general courtoom, was presented Friday by Huguely’s defense team. The scenes of calm and apparent affection contrast sharply with the violence that prosecutors contend lay ahead late that Sunday in 2010 between Huguely and his sometime girlfriend, Love.

Prosecutors contend that an angry Huguely kicked through Love’s door, shook her until her head banged against a wall and then left her bleeding. A roommate found her body the next morning.

Huguely has pleaded not guilty to murder and five other charges.

Underscoring what he had previously described as the difference between the public and private faces of Huguely’s relationship with Love, prosecutor Warner “Dave” Chapman, on cross-examination, asked Massaro whether the video showed the pair at a “public, family occasion.”

“Yes,” she said.

The trial is scheduled to continue Saturday in a rare weekend session scheduled after testimony was canceled Thursday and cut short Friday because Rhonda Quagliana, one of Huguely’s defense attorneys, had fallen ill.

Francis McQ. Lawrence, the other half of Huguely’s defense team, said in court 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.

Circuit Court Judge Edward L. Hogshire ruled that Lawrence could continue to question some witnesses Friday morning. But the judge agreed to delay testimony by medical experts until Quagliana was feeling better.

Raising Huguely’s concerns “put down a marker for an appeal” if the case should end in a conviction, said Richmond defense lawyer Betty Layne DesPortes, who is not involved in the case. But she remarked that defendants “are entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one.”

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, and Love, of Cockeysville, Md., were accomplished U-Va. lacrosse players on the verge of graduation.

The trial began on Feb. 6 and was expected to last two weeks. It has moved more slowly than predicted, partly because jury selection took longer than expected. The trial was delayed further when Quagliana fell ill.

Lawrence said in court Friday that Quagliana has prepared the medical aspect of the defense case and spent “hundreds of hours of consultation” with experts.

Medical testimony has been key in the case. The Virginia medical examiner’s office has concluded that Love died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Defense attorneys have described Love’s death as a tragic accident and have challenged the medical examiner’s findings. A neuropathologist who testified for the defense told jurors that he had concluded that Love probably suffocated facedown in blood on her pillow. In a statement to police, Huguely said that he had tossed Love on the bed and that she was alive but bleeding when he left.

Mary Pat Flaherty works on investigative and long-range stories. Her work has won numerous national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.
Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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