Wednesday evening a jury in Charlottesville, Virginia found former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely guilty of second-degree murder for the May 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend.
Huguely was found not guilty on the most serious charge of first-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love, 22. He was also acquitted on several other charges, including robbery and breaking and entering to commit larceny.
Huguely, 24, faces between five and 40 years in prison. He showed no emotion during the reading of the verdict, but wiped away tears during the sentencing phase held later Wednesday.
Relatives of Love testified in that phase, but there were no mitigating witnesses before the jury began deliberating the sentence. The jury’s sentence is not binding: The judge can accept it or go with a lesser term.
Authorities alleged that Huguely caused fatal blunt force trauma during an altercation with Love also a lacrosse player, at her Charlottesville apartment. The defense argued Love’s death was an accident.
Jurors had the option, besides acquittal, of finding Huguely guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter in Love’s death. They deliberated more than nine hours Wednesday.
A ruling of first-degree murder would have shown the act was willful, deliberate and premeditated, according to Virginia law. Both first and second-degree murder convictions require malice.
Huguely was convicted of grand larceny in the theft of a computer that belonged to Love.
A defense attorney told jurors during closing arguments Saturday in Charlottesville that Huguely contributed to Love’s death, but did not kill her and had no intent to do so.
“Yes, George contributed to her death. But no, he didn’t kill her, he left there with her alive, and that is not in dispute. There was no intentional killing, because she wasn’t dead when he left,” defense attorney Francis Lawrence said. “There’s no intent to rob and no intent to kill.”
Lawrence described his client as “stupid, drunk, but not calculating.”
Police were first called to Love’s off-campus Charlottesville apartment by a roommate who reported “a possible alcohol overdose,” Police Chief Tim Longo said at the time.
A medical examiner later ruled that Love died of blunt force trauma, and authorities allege that Huguely caused it during an altercation.
“When somebody’s little girl doesn’t wake up the next day, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t, I ask you to do no more, and no less, than to hold him responsible for what he did,” said Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner D. Chapman.
“It goes without saying that this woman is never going to be able to say what happened to her, but the evidence proves she was killed in the commission of a robbery,” he told the jury.
Love’s death was slow and painful, the prosecutor told jurors, claiming she could have remained alive for a couple of hours after Huguely left her apartment. The defense agrees Love was alive when Huguely left.
Charlottesville Police Detective Lisa Reeves wrote in a sworn statement used to obtain a search warrant in the case that “Huguely admitted on May 3, 2010, that he was involved in an altercation with Yeardley Love and, during the course of the altercation, he shook Love and her head repeatedly hit the wall.”
The defense attorney had said there is no evidence that Love’s head hit a wall, and on Saturday the defense called a neurosurgeon who questioned the nature of Love’s injuries.
Prosecutors have claimed all along that Huguely followed through on his intentions to kill Love.
Earlier in the trial, Chapman read e-mails between the two after Huguely heard Love had allegedly slept with someone else.
The defendant wrote, “I should have killed you,” and Love responded, “You should have killed me?” according to Chapman.