Disparate views as jury to decide Huguely’s fate

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – After two weeks of testimony and evidence, a Charlottesville jury Wednesday morning will begin the process of ruling whether George Huguely V is guilty of murder, a lesser crime or none at all in the death of Yeardley Love.

Jurors have heard prosecution and defense arguments, which paint disparate views of how the 22-year-old lacrosse player from Cockeysville, Md., died on May 3, 2010, just weeks before her graduation.

Huguely, 24, of Chevy Chase, Md., was indicted on first-degree murder. Prosecutors have pointed to the door to Love’s room, which Huguely kicked through to get inside, as evidence of premeditation.

Defense lawyers have argued their client was “a stupid drunk,” not capable of planning and executing a premeditated murder.

The jury has several options if it believes Huguely’s actions resulted in Love’s death. The judge has included lesser-included charges as alternates to the first-degree murder count.

Jurors heard testimony from friends of Huguely and Love, who described their off-and-on relationship as volatile. They read an email Huguely sent to Love in the days before she died, after he learned she had slept with another man.

In the email Huguely typed, “I should have killed you.”

“Second-degree murder is a killing without premeditation, but with malice — that is hate, or ill-will, jealousy — things of that nature,” says noted defense attorney Peter Greenspun, who is not involved in the Love-Huguely case.

Greenspun has provided defense in many of the area’s most high-profile murder cases, including co-representing John Allen Muhammad in the 2003 regional sniper spree trial in Virginia Beach.

Jurors also can consider voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

“Voluntary manslaughter is killing in the heat of passion, where someone has really lost control of themselves out of emotions of the heart as opposed to the intellect of the brain,” Greenspun said.

“Involuntary manslaughter is much more consistent with an accidental killing, out of otherwise legal conduct,” says Greenspun.

“An example is drunk driving that leads to a killing. It’s legal to drive, but it’s something that’s being done in a criminally negligent fashion.”

Jurors have also heard Huguely stole Love’s Dell Inspiron laptop after her murder.

“Felony murder is where a death comes about during the commission of a felony — it could be breaking and entering, it could be robbery — but where the killing is not intended,” Greenspun said.

During a hearing to determine how the jury would be instructed on the law, prosecutors seemed intent on fine-tuning the language of the felony murder count, which in this case is murder in commission of a robbery.

“Premeditation and malice do not have to be proven, just the fact there was a killing during the course of some other felony,” Greenspun said.

If the jury finds Huguely guilty, in Virginia, the sentencing phase begins almost immediately.

In essence, a separate trial including arguments and witnesses is presented to the same jury which determined guilt. The jury then decides on the sentence.

“First-degree murder is punishable by from 20 years to life in prison,” said Greenspun. “Second-degree murder is five to 40 years in prison.”

“Both of the manslaughters are from one to 10 years in prison, or up to a 12-month jail sentence and up to a $2,500 fine.”

Jurors, who heard closing arguments Saturday, will begin deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

WTOP will follow the trial to its conclusion, with reporters tweeting from Charlottesville. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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