CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — The murder trial of former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V sputtered a second day as an ill attorney delayed defense testimony Friday intended to counter accusations the defendant killed his former girlfriend Yeardley Love.
The stalled trial raised the prospect of a frenetic Saturday, when the defense hopes to conclude its presentation and both sides offer closing arguments.
Circuit Judge George Hogshire has said the trial is unlikely to be conducted Sunday or Monday, which is Presidents’ Day, and grand jurors meet in the courthouse on Tuesday. Jurors, who are not sequestered, presumably could continue or resume deliberations on Wednesday.
Hogshire has repeatedly reminded jurors to avoid widespread media coverage of the trial. Friday marked the end of the trial’s second week, the expected length of the trial.
Huguely, 24, of Chevy Chase, Md., is charged with first-degree murder and other counts in the May 3, 2010, death of Love, with whom, according to witnesses, Huguely shared a tempestuous relationship. The 22-year-old was found dead in the bedroom of her Charlottesville apartment of blunt force trauma, her head battered and right eye blackened.
Prosecutors have said Huguely went to Love’s apartment after a day of golf and heavy drinking, kicked in her bedroom door and repeatedly banged her head against a wall, leaving the suburban Baltimore woman to die. Love was a member of U.Va.’s woman’s lacrosse team.
Huguely, who has pleaded not guilty, said during a police interrogation hours after Love’s death that he had gone to her apartment to talk but the encounter quickly turned physical after she “freaked out” and began hitting her own head against the wall of her bedroom.
His attorneys have presented medical testimony that Love smothered in her own blood-dampened pillow, while defense experts have said Love’s brain was bruised in a violent attack.
Huguely attorney Francis McQ. Lawrence told Hogshire at the start of Friday’s session that his co-counsel, Rhonda Quagliana, was unable to return to court for a second day because of an unspecified illness that he later said included “projectile vomiting.”
Quagliana was presenting critical medical evidence that Lawrence said he was unprepared to deliver. He said Huguely also objected to proceeding without both of his attorneys flanking him at the defense table.
“Mr. Huguely told me, ‘I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t feel protected,’ ” Lawrence said.
Hogshire told Lawrence to continue with his witnesses, then check back later in the morning on Quagliana’s status. She was unable to return and Hogshire adjourned the trial until 9 a.m. Saturday.
Lawrence presented six witnesses before adjournment, including a biomechanics expert who said he found no evidence of impact with a section of drywall where Huguely allegedly banged Love’s head.
He also questioned two women who testified they saw Love angrily lash out at Huguely when she found them in Huguely’s apartment watching a movie just days before her body was found. One said Love hit Huguely with her purse. Both said Huguely asked Love to leave.
Huguely’s aunt and godmother, Alina Massaro, also testified about the seemingly happy couple in the weekend Love was found dead. She repeatedly referred to Huguely as “Georgie” during her testimony.
With the jury sent home until Saturday, Hogshire and opposing attorneys parsed instructions that will be delivered to jurors after closing arguments. The instructions are critical because how jurors rule on one count could profoundly alter sentencing on any guilty finding in Love’s death.
If Huguely caused Love’s death in the course of committing a burglary, for instance, it would classify as felony murder and a possible life sentence. Second-degree murder guilt calls for punishment of up to 40 years
The back-and-forth between judge and attorneys also included punctuation changes, reflecting the shading of the sentencing.
Prosecutor Dave Chapman also wanted assurances that rebuttal witnesses subpoenaed to testify would be available on Saturday.
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