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Va.: Forget Huguely’s claims, verdict should stand

RICHMOND, Va. — The second-degree murder conviction of a former University of Virginia athlete for the May 2010 slaying of his on-again, off-again girlfriend should stand, the state argues in a brief filed with the Court of Appeals of Virginia.

The attorney general’s office responded to claims by attorneys for George W. Huguely V that a judge erred by seating jurors who had expressed strong views about the case or issues related to the slaying and that he pushed the trial along when one of Huguely’s two attorneys fell ill.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., was convicted in February 2012 by a jury in Charlottesville in the death of Yeardley Love, a 22-year-old from Cockeysville. Both lacrosse players at U.Va., the two had been involved in a volatile relationship that included infidelities by Love and Huguely, according to testimony at trial.

Love was found dead in the bedroom of her Charlottesville apartment after Huguely forced himself through the door after a daylong bout of drinking and the encounter turned physical. Love was found dead by her roommate, her face bloodied and battered.

A judge sentenced Huguely to 23 years in state prison.

Huguely’s appeal attorneys contend 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.

Huguely told his other attorney, Francis Lawrence, he did not want the trial to proceed without Quagliana, and Lawrence requested the delay while his co-counsel recovered. The trial judge denied the request, however, when Lawrence said he was prepared to move ahead with his witnesses.

“The trial court’s denial of a continuance did not violate Huguely’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel,” the state wrote in its brief, filed last week.

Huguely’s appeal lawyers also argued that the trial judge failed to strike at least six jury prospects 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, as she did.

The state said the juror also said she had “an open mind” and would not make a determination on Huguely’s guilt or innocence until she had heard all the facts.

The judge did not err in seating other jurors who raised concerns about drinking among young adults or a professor whose students included a friend of Love’s, the state said.

The appeals court has not scheduled a date for arguments.