Huguely Trial: Prosecution Rests, Defense Begins Case

By: NewsStaff Email
By: NewsStaff Email

Legal Analysis

Defense Attorney Scott Goodman visited the Newsplex to discuss how prosecution handled the case and the testimony of George Huguely's former teammates.

"George was creating an alibi for himself and why that's important is because the defenses whole theory is that he was too drunk to know what he was doing. But, the Commonwealth you can be sure on closing arguments will be arguing that not only was he not too drunk to do what he did in Yeardley's own room, but he had the presence of mind to lie, come up with an alibi to create a story for himself in front of his own room mate and team mates.

Goodman says it wasn't a good day for the defense. He said the two witnesses they had to testify the Commonwealth was able to find loop holes in their testimony.

"The Commonwealth barely disguised disdain, you could tell through his tone, sarcastic questioning, dismissive tone, was able to poke holes in the testimony of both defense experts, especially the last expert which was a neuropathologists , the Commonwealth used his own writings, his own material to discredit his testimony," said Goodman.

February 15, 2012

Evening Update

The defense team's second witness, Dr. Jan Edward Leestma, took two hours on the witness stand trying to poke holes in the prosecution's case.

The prosecution maintains that George Huguely killed Yeardley Love, but the defense has said Love's death was "an accident with a tragic outcome."

Leestma, a professional expert and a general pathologist, began his testimony by looking through pictures of Yeardley Love's dissected brain to give his personal opinion on how the former UVa women's lacrosse player may have died.

Leestma says that the force with which Love was hit didn't render a skull fracture and her brain did not show signs of "twisting" and "whipping" like the neuropathologists who performed Love's brain autopsy determined.

Instead, the expert opined CPR could have caused Love's brain injuries saying, CPR may have pushed blood to the point of trauma in Love's head and caused severe hemorrhaging.

Prosecutor Dave Chapman would not let the expert rest his case, asking why CPR would cause bleeding in one part of Love's body and not others.

Leestma continued saying that Love may have suffocated in her pillow. Love was found face down and her death could have been a result of "deprivation of blood flow to the brain occasioned by asphyxia."

Chapman brought up the fact that Leestma is being paid by the defense to look at Love's brain and testify. Dr. Leestma concluded by affirming he stands by his findings and opinions.

Afternoon Update

After 50 witness and five days of testimony, the prosecution has rested its case in the George Huguely Trial.

At 2:19 p.m. Wednesday, Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman concluded his presentation to jurors in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

The prosecution portrayed Huguely as a heavy drinking, jealous ex-boyfriend who broke into Love's bedroom and violently assaulted her by banging her head against a wall. She died of blunt force trauma.

Before calling his first witness, defense attorney Fran Lawrence filed a motion to dismiss five charges against Huguely, including first-degree murder and felony murder. The only charge the defense did not contest was grand larceny.

After hearing Lawrence's argument, Judge Edward Hogshire ruled that all six charges will stand as originally filed. Huguely's defense attorney then called his first witness, a toxicologist at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Medicine.

Dr. Alphonse Poklis estimated Love's BAC was 0.16 between 11:45 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. the night she died, which he said would be "clinically intoxicated". He said Love would have had severe impairments of perception and staggered movements.

On cross-examination, Chapman said given Dr. Poklis' testimony, Love should still be alive today.

Morning Update

Friends and teammates of George Huguely were gradually becoming concerned of the lacrosse player’s drinking habits over the course of the Spring 2010 semester, they said in court testimony Wednesday.

Huguely’s former teammate, Ken Clausen, says he and roommate Kevin Carroll planned on having an intervention with Huguely on May 3, 2010, however the former lacrosse star allegedly attacked ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love the night prior.

Testifying for the prosecution, Clausen said Huguely’s drinking was at the point where it was “getting ridiculous and belligerent.”

Around 12:15 a.m. on May 3, less than two hours before Love’s lifeless body was found, Huguely returned to his apartment, according to Clausen. He said Huguely “seemed strange,” had a “change in demeanor” and a “blank stare.”

After asking where he was, Clausen testified Huguely said he was drinking with teammates in a downstairs apartment. Clausen told Huguely that “didn’t add up” since one of those teammates – Chris Clements – was writing a paper. After repeatedly asking Huguely what was wrong, Clausen testified he never got an answer.

When asked if Huguely had any visible injuries, Clausen said he did not.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman also brought in two women who exchanged playful text messages with Huguely throughout the day of May 2. But neither of the women met Huguely in person that day or night.

The day began with prosecutors bringing in James Sacco, the owner of Snooky’s Pawn Shop on the Downtown Mall. Sacco testified that the value of Love’s laptop – which prosecutors say Huguely stole from her apartment and threw in a dumpster – is between $250 and $350.

According to Virginia code, a person can be charged with felony grand larceny if an item taken is valued at more than $200. Huguely has been charged with felony murder, which is applicable when the suspect kills accidentally while committing a felony.

Defense attorney Fran Lawrence accused Sacco of not being an expert in computer technology, and argued that the post-discount price of a computer places it below $200.

Pending some administrative work, Chapman says he is “absolutely near the point” of resting the prosecution's case. The Commonwealth's Attorney told Judge Edward Hogshire that he wants to identify all the evidence submitted so far before resting his case.

The judge called for an extended recess around 12:35 p.m. Court will be back in session at 2 p.m.

In all, prosecutors called ten witnesses Wednesday morning, including five former lacrosse teammates and three women Huguely contacted throughout the day of May 2.

Prosecutors also recalled Mike Flaherty of the Charlottesville Police Department, who identified a photo of a deceased Yeardley Love. That was the last image prosecutors presented before the recess.

Trial Day 8 Preview

The prosecution is expected to rest its case Wednesday in the George Huguely murder trial. Huguely faces six charges, including first degree murder, in the death of ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love, but the defense will try to change those charges.

The prosecution has called more than 30 witnesses to the stand since the trial began on Feb. 6, including several detectives who interviewed Huguely in the hours after Love's body was found and forensic analysts who examined the blood stains in Love's apartment. Medical experts also testified about the trauma Love suffered to her brain.

Before Huguely's defense team begins calling witnesses, legal experts say his attorneys will ask the judge to lower the charges. They could argue the prosecution hasn't presented enough evidence to convict Huguely of first degree murder.

"The defense will make a motion to dismiss the first-degree murder part of the case, of course the Commonwealth will oppose, and the judge will rule," said Scott Goodman, a Charlottesville defense lawyer who is unaffiliated with this case.

If Huguely were convicted of a lesser charge, for example involuntary manslaughter, he would face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

"Then the defense will put on its case, beginning with possibly some of the friends of Huguely who were with him on the night in question," Goodman explained. "The defense has alluded in their [opening statement] that Huguely did not seem as if in any way, shape or form he had just been involved in a murder."

The defendant's father, George Huguely Sr., is also expected to testify on his son's behalf.

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