CHARLOTTESVILLE — When jurors in the trial of George Huguely V began deliberations, they were convinced that Yeardley Love had died at Huguely’s hands, but they were split over his intentions, according to one of the jurors.
By the end of nine hours of discussion Wednesday, the seven men and five women concluded that Huguely, 24, had acted maliciously but that he hadn’t kicked through her locked bedroom door intending to kill her, which could have sent him to prison for life.
The jurors convicted him of second-degree murder in the May 2010 death of Love, 22, his onetime girlfriend, and they sentenced him to 26 years in prison. Huguely, of Chevy Chase, and Love, of Cockeysville, Md., had met at the University of Virginia, where they both played lacrosse and dated over two years.
Jurors took into account Huguely’s heavy drinking and his videotaped admission to police — recorded hours after Love’s body was found — that he had fought with Love and left her bleeding, said juror Ian Glomski, 39, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s medical school. They thought that Huguely showed genuine shock and surprise when a detective told him that Love was dead, Glomski said.
“I was emotionally shredded inside” by the video, Glomski said. “I absolutely feel for the guy.”
Glomski said seeing Huguely’s grief and wailing convinced most jurors that Huguely had not planned Love’s death, which shifted deliberations away from a verdict of first-degree murder.
Testimony about a separate drunken incident, in February 2010, in which Huguely held Love down as she screamed for help, stuck in jurors’ minds, Glomski said. One witness said Huguely had Love in a chokehold; others said the incident frightened Love.
That testimony, along with an apology letter Huguely sent to Love, convinced jurors that he could be a violent drunk and that he knew it, Glomski said.
“It showed that he could go there,” Glomski said. “It’s not that difficult to see an almost identical chokehold happening” the night Huguely wrestled Love to her bedroom floor.
Second-degree murder carries a sentence of five to 40 years, and jurors debated what his punishment should be, Glomski said. He said Huguely’s alcohol problem was at the center of the discussion, and the group 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.
“We wanted to put on enough years so that when he came out and had access to alcohol, he would be more mature,” Glomski said.
A judge can accept or reduce — but not increase — the jury’s sentence. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled during the court term that begins in mid-April.
Huguely also admitted taking Love’s laptop as “collateral” so she would contact him. He was charged with several robbery counts.
What to do about the laptop consumed much of the jury’s time, Glomski said. Prosecutors pushed to link the theft to Love’s death in a way that could lead to a first-degree murder conviction, which jurors felt was too severe, Glomski said. They settled on a grand larceny conviction and added one year to a 25-year sentence for murder.
And although they heard competing testimony about whether Love died of blunt-force injuries to her head or suffocated in her bloody pillow, jurors did not spend much time discussing what caused her death, Glomski said. “Everything that we saw was a direct result of George’s actions,” he said
Jurors were not convinced that an angry e-mail Huguely sent Love about her sexual encounter with another man was a threat. It read, in part, “I should have killed you.” Glomski said the e-mail exchange was “really heated” on both sides.
In its closing argument, the defense team cast Huguely as a “stupid drunk” and a “boy athlete” who made one too many bad decisions.
“I found some of the things were offensive. [The attorney] was basically saying boys will be boys,” Glomski said. “I don’t think that’s an excuse.”