UPDATED: Jury Finds George Huguely Guilty of Second-Degree Murder
Deliberations began early Wednesday morning.
Updated (6:58 p.m.) — The jury has found George Huguely guilty of second-degree murder. Stay tuned for more updates from the jury's announcement.
Updated (6:35 p.m.)—A verdict has been reached in the George Huguely murder trial.
According to a Charlottesville city spokesman, the verdict will be announced in the next 30 minutes to an hour.
Huguely, depending on how the jury rules, could face a sentence ranging from months to life in prison.
Update, 6 p.m.: The Charlotteville jury in George Huguely's murder trial says they are prepared to work late Wednesday night.
In response to a 5 p.m. inquiry from Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire, jurors said they are prepared to stay and asked the court to check back at 6 p.m.
Before Hogshire sent a sheriff's deputy to ask the jury, attorneys discussed how to ask the jurors about how they are progressing.
"I think it's very important they not feel pushed at all," defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Update, 4:18 p.m.: The jury has asked to see a handwritten note, found in Yeardley Love's desk drawer, written to her by George Huguely in 2010.
In the letter, read aloud during closing statements by prosecutor Warner "Dave" Chapman, Huguely apologizes for an incident that year during which proseuctors say he held her in a chokehold, leaving her visibly upset.
“I can’t describe how sorry I am,” read the letter, according to Chapman.
“I’m scared to know I can get that drunk to the point I can’t control how I behave. I will never act as I did that night.”
Also written in the letter: "Alcohol is ruining my life."
Shortly after 4 p.m., the jury had not yet responded to a prompt by Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire to clarify an earlier question regarding instructions they felt were contradictory. The instructions related to the grades of homicide below first-degree murder and the direct and indirect causations of death.
Hogshire said he would check in with the jury at 5 p.m.
"It's often my practice to ask, "How are you doing?'" Hogshire said.
Update, 2:49 p.m.: The jury has entered its sixth hour of deliberations in the trial of George Huguely V, of Chevy Chase.
A brown bag lunch was delivered to the courthouse Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday morning, the jury asked a question in regards to the definition of "reason" in a specific jury instruction.
The jurors were also set to watch a video of Huguely's police interrogation, ABC7 reported via Twitter.
Update, 9:26 a.m.: A jury has begun deliberating Wednesday morning in the trial of George Huguely, the Chevy Chase man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love of Cockeysville, while the two were University of Virginia lacrosse players.
Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire sent the jury to deliberations at 9:23 a.m., after some final jury instructions, including asking jurors not to use their notes to sway fellow members of the jury.
Two alternate jurors were excused and ordered not to speak to the media.
Follow Patch's live blog of the trial.
CBS29 reports that Hogshire hopes to finish the trial today.
Prosecutors have said an enraged, inebriated Huguely broke into Love’s apartment in May 2010 and shook her until her head banged against a wall. He stole her laptop to hide a trail of threatening emails then left her to die, prosecutors have said.
Huguely, who has pleaded not guilty, has been portrayed by his lawyers as a 24-year-old “stupid drunk” who had no intent to kill.
Huguely faces six charges—first-degree murder, felony murder, grand larceny, statutory burglary, burglary and robbery. As Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward A. Hogshire explained Saturday, the jury may choose to find Huguely guilty of lesser homicide offenses, including second-degree murder and voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
Huguely faces a variety of verdicts with sentences ranging up to life in prison. While it’s possible Huguely could be acquitted of all charges, many experts who have followed the case have said such an outcome is unlikely.
To find Huguely guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder, the jury will need to find Huguely planned Love’s killing, Hogshire told the jury. During closing statements, defense attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence argued that Huguely had no intention to kill Love, and that she died of asphyxia following an altercation.
The prosecution has maintained Love died of blunt force trauma to the head, not of asphyxia.
“On the premeditation, my guess is that would be a not guilty, because the evidence would seem to be either, A, he did not intend to kill her, or B, if he intended to kill her, it was not premeditated,” said Byron Warnken, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore law school and a practicing criminal defense attorney.
Warnken has followed the case, but is not connected to it.
The prosecutors, however, have not argued that Huguely planned the attack. In closing statements, prosecutor Warner “Dave” Chapman angled instead for a conviction on felony murder – a charge that doesn’t require specific intent, but does require a death to result “in the same criminal enterprise” as a qualifying felony, such as robbery.
Huguely faces felony charges in connection with the stealing of Love’s laptop. A felony murder conviction – which can be found even if the death is an accident—carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“That means he would have had to enter with the intent of taking the laptop, which seems absurd to me,” said criminal defense attorney John Zwerling, of Alexandria, VA, who is not connected to the case but has watched portions of the proceedings.
Huguely’s defense has argued he didn’t intend to steal the laptop; rather, he took it as an “afterthought.”
If the jury finds Huguely killed Love and acted with malice—or ill-will—but didn’t premeditate the attack, he could be found guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
If they find he killed Love as an intentional action while in the sudden heat of passion but acted without malice, the finding of guilt could drop to voluntary manslaughter. Also on the table as a possible finding of guilt is involuntary manslaughter – a verdict the defense asked the jury to consider in their closing arguments.
Involuntary manslaughter requires the killing to be unintended but the result of gross negligence, Hogshire told the jury. Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
A jury will need to find that Huguely took property worth more than $200 from Love against her will in order to convict him on grand larceny charges. The value of Love’s laptop has been at issue throughout the case. The defense has asserted it’s worth less than $200, making its theft not a felony.
The jury’s findings on the grand larceny charges could prove to be key, because as a potential underlying felony, it could play into whether Huguely is found guilty of felony murder.
Additionally, the jury will need to weigh whether Huguely broke into Love’s apartment intending to steal or to commit assault, and whether Huguely stole property from Love by intimidation or fear of harm.
With more than 30 jury instructions to consider and a variety of legal elements to weigh, Warnken estimated it could be a matter of several days before a verdict is returned.
“A two week trial is fairly long – most felony cases don’t run longer than about a week,” Warnken said. “I would expect the jury to spend at least two to three days deliberating, particularly if there’s some legitimate debate.”