George W. Huguely V, the former University of Virginia lacrosse player serving 23 years in prison for beating to death his sometimes girlfriend, Yeardley Love, asked a state appeals court to order a new trial because of judicial errors and a lack of evidence against him.
Huguely, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in February, told a state appeals court today that his conviction was the result of flawed rulings by Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire in Charlottesville, Virginia, during jury selection and then throughout his 10-week trial. The 25-year-old also argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of a crime more serious than manslaughter.
“The court made a number of erroneous rulings that valued expediency and convenience over Mr. Huguely’s right to a fair trial,” Paul Clement, a lawyer for Huguely, wrote in the 57-page brief.
Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was also charged with first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering and murder in the commission of a robbery, and acquitted on those counts. In addition to murder, he was found guilty of grand larceny for walking off with Love’s computer after beating her in her bedroom at a Charlottesville apartment.
Jurors recommended a 25-year sentence for the crime, an intentional killing that, unlike first-degree murder, isn’t premeditated.
Huguely’s appellate lawyer, Clement of Bancroft Pllc in Washington, has become the go-to lawyer for conservatives on the country’s highest-profile legal fights.
Clement, who was the U.S. solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration, has argued the Republican case against the Obama administration on illegal immigration, voter-identification laws, gay marriage and recess appointments, as well as health care.
Love’s badly bruised body was discovered by a friend and fellow player on her lacrosse team who went to her apartment at about 2 a.m. on May 3, 2010. Love, of Cockeysville, Maryland, was in her bedroom, face down on a pillow in a pool of blood.
Huguely told police investigators he entered Love’s apartment through the unlocked front door and then kicked open the door to her bedroom. He said the two had an altercation during which he “shook Love and her head repeatedly hit the wall,” according to an affidavit filed by prosecutors.
At his trial prosecutors portrayed Huguely as a violent man who intentionally killed the young woman.
The defense attempted to show that Huguely and Love had a tempestuous relationship animated by jealousies that led both to lash out physically.
In today’s filing, Clement told the appeals court that Hogshire violated Huguely’s right to a fair trial by refusing to allow the defense to ask questions during jury selection that were relevant to determining bias, failed to strike several jurors whose answers the defense said “raised serious doubts” about their ability to remain impartial, and didn’t sequester the jury during trial, according to the filing.
Hogshire also didn’t properly instruct the jury on the meaning of malice under Virginia law and the evidence at trial failed to establish the required malice, Clement said.
The judge violated Huguely’s right to a lawyer by moving forward with the trial even while one of his lawyers was sick.
Prosecutors deprived Huguely of his constitutional rights by failing to disclose to the defense that Love’s family was planning to file a $30 million lawsuit against Huguely.
Elliott Buckner, a lawyer for the Love family, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the filing.
Huguely’s mother, Marta Murphy, said in an e-mailed statement that her son “continues to have the love and support of his family.”
“We have faith in our legal system and look forward to the appeals process ahead,” Murphy said.
The case is Huguely v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 1697-12-2, Court of Appeals of Virginia (Richmond).