CHARLOTTESVILLE — In a navy blue blazer, white shirt and tan pants that all looked at least a size too large, a very lean 24-year-old George W. Huguely V entered a courtroom Monday and pleaded not guilty to murder and five other charges in the May 2010 death of his former girlfriend, Yeardley Love.
The two were seniors at the University of Virginia and on the university’s nationally ranked lacrosse teams when police say Huguely, of Chevy Chase, broke down Love’s bedroom door, shook her until her head banged against a wall and left her bleeding.
A roommate of Love, 22, found her dead facedown on her pillow.
Huguely’s attorneys have said that final argument was a tragic accident.
Monday marked the first time Huguely appeared in person in court in the nearly two years since his May 3, 2010, arrest. He was beside his attorneys — and keeping his own notes on the people who will hold his fate — as potential jurors began to be questioned in a painstakingly slow process about what preconceptions and biases they might bring if selected as one of 12 jurors and three alternates.
Jury selection is set to continue Tuesday.
Exposure to news accounts about the case did not automatically eliminate people from the pool of 160. But in a college town where the university employs many and is revered by others, prosecutors and defense lawyers deeply probed the jury pool’s loyalties to U-Va., and attitudes about elite athletes, youthful drinking and domestic violence — suggesting the broad paths ahead on both sides of the case.
At the time of his arrest, Huguely looked every bit of the 200-pound, 6-2 varsity athlete listed in his player’s biography. But he was markedly thinner Monday.
Huguely answered in a strong voice “not guilty” to each of the charges against him: first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery of a residence, burglary, entering a house with intent to commit a felony and grand larceny. As he left Love’s apartment, Huguely took a laptop that police have scanned, along with e-mail and phone accounts, to recover messages the couple shared as a tumultuous relationship degraded, according to prosecutors.
When Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward L. Hogshire asked, “Are you ready for trial today?” Huguely said “Yes sir.”
Throughout the day, Huguely scarcely glanced at the front row where his mother, father and other relatives sat.
Across the aisle from the Huguely clan sat the mother, older sister and other relatives of Love. Love’s sister, Lexie, was in a pink jacket, and her mother, Sharon Love, wore a pink scarf, as did two others. Courtroom rules set before trial banned the wearing of any memorial items — such as the “Love” bracelets seen on witnesses and family members at previous hearings. Whether the pink was a coincidence or deliberate, it bound the Love women visually as a group. Love’s sister briefly wept, then focused steel-eyed on Huguely.
Lexie Love, Sharon Love and Huguely’s father, George Huguely IV, of Potomac are expected to appear as witnesses, according to court statements by Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner “Dave” Chapman and the Huguely defense team of Francis McQ. Lawrence and Rhonda Quagliana, both of Charlottesville.
Love, of Cockeysville, Md., died from blunt force trauma to the head, the state medical examiner ruled. Huguely’s attorneys have indicated they will challenge that conclusion and suggest a drug to treat attention disorders prescribed to Love could have caused a cardiac problem that contributed to her death.
Court officials had expected to question 80 potential jurors by the end of Monday and another 80 by Tuesday morning. Opening arguments were to follow by Wednesday. But that pace was overly optimistic.
As night fell Monday, jury questioning continued but only 40 potential jurors had been questioned and only 15 were excused — including a U-Va. parking supervisor who once accepted a memorial button in honor of Love at a sports event and a woman engaged to marry a police officer.