RICHMOND, Va. — Appeals attorneys for a former University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend argue he was denied a fair trial by a judge who rushed the sensational case to jurors even when one of the defendant’s attorneys fell ill.
The attorneys representing George W. Huguely V made the claim in a filing with the Court of Appeals of Virginia. They also allege other errors involving jury selection in seeking a new trial for Huguely for the May 2010 beating death of Yeardley Love, who was 22.
The state has until Sept. 3 to file its response. It declined to respond Thursday to Huguely’s filing.
Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., was sentenced to 23 years in state prison after a Circuit Court jury in Charlottesville convicted him in February 2012 of second-degree murder and grand larceny.
Both U.Va. lacrosse players, Huguely and Love had been in an increasingly volatile relationship when Huguely went to Love’s apartment on May 2, 2010, after their latest jealousy-fueled spat. Love, of suburban Baltimore, was found dead in her bedroom early the next day by a roommate.
Huguely’s appeal attorneys, Paul D. Clement of Washington, D.C., and Craig S. Cooley of Richmond, wrote in their appeal that the trial judge should have granted a continuance after one of Huguely’s attorneys, Rhonda Quagliana, became ill nine days into the trial. The request was denied, forcing Huguely’s other attorney to move ahead without her until she recovered. Her absence required the defense to delay testimony of its scheduled medical experts.
“The circuit court’s unyielding insistence on meeting its self-imposed deadlines in the face of a reasonable request for a short continuance violated Mr. Huguely’s right to counsel and requires a new trial,” the attorneys wrote in a filing this month.
Citing the “staggering amount of press coverage” before trial, including what Huguely’s appeal team called unfavorable and false reports, the trial judge should have excluded any prospects who raised doubts about their impartiality during questioning, the attorneys wrote. They also cited public comments critical of Huguely by U.Va. officials.
They said the trial judge failed to strike at least six jurors whose answers to attorneys’ questions raised doubts about their impartiality. They cited one prospect who was seated despite acknowledging she was following the case in the media and discussing it with her friends and family, most of whom believed Huguely was guilty.
They also cited another juror, a U.Va. professor, who admitted that he had “opinions” about Huguely’s guilt or innocence and that he too had discussed the case the case and feared its impact on the university.
Given the widespread coverage of Love’s slaying, the attorneys argued, the court should have been particularly vigilant about selecting an impartial jury.
“Yet the court instead chose to limit the defense’s ability to evaluate potential bias, and to disregard a number of responses … that raised serious doubts about prospective jurors’ ability to remain impartial,” they wrote.
The attorneys also raised questions about the judge’s instructions to jurors.
The appeals court has not scheduled a date for arguments.