CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Following two days of delays, the defense rested in the University of Virginia Lacrosse murder trial without defendant George Huguely V taking the stand on his own behalf.
A neurosurgeon testified Saturday that he saw little brain injury in Yeardley Love whom prosecutors said Huguely fatally bashed her head against a wall.
Dr. Ronald H. Uscinski testified for the defense in the trial. Huguely is charged with first-degree murder in the May 3, 2010, death of YeardleyLove, who was a member of the U.Va. women’s lacrosse team and is ex-girlfriend.
Huguely waived his right to testify before the trial broke for lunch. Jurors had already heard his account of Love’s death in a police interrogation video played during the trial.
By Saturday afternoon, defense attorneys had rested their case after presenting fewer than 10 witnesses over several days. The prosecution had presented about 50.
Circuit Judge George Hogshire read jurors instructions, which said they could also find Huguely guilty of involuntary manslaughter or voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. Both charges would carry lighter sentences than a murder conviction.
Closing arguments were also scheduled for Saturday afternoon, with jurors possibly getting the case later in the day.
Uscinki’s testimony was limited by Circuit Judge George Hogshire because of an email exchange involving Uscinski during the trial that had the potential to influence his testimony. The prosecution said they also would seek to strike previous defense medical testimony.
The medical testimony is critical because there is no disagreement that the 24-year-old Huguely of Chevy Chase, Md., was in Love’s apartment the night she died, or that their encounter became physical. At issue is how she died from what the medical examiner has ruled was blunt-force trauma.
The prosecution argues that Huguely banged Love’s head against her bedroom wall, bruising her brain and causing bleeding near the brain stem, while the defense contends Love suffocated with her face buried in her own blood-dampened pillow.
Love, who was 22 and from suburban Baltimore, was found with a battered right eye and injuries around and in her mouth and on her neck.
Asked by one of Huguely’s defense attorneys, Rhonda Quagliana, what he concluded after he viewed Love’s brain, Uscinski replied: “That there may have been head trauma … but there’s not of lot of significant brain trauma.”
Asked by Quagliana if he saw blunt-force injuries, Uscinski said, “No.”
Huguely’s defense has said it can complete its presentation Saturday. But the jury was kept out of the courtroom after prosecutor Dave Chapman presented a series of emails between Uscinski and a member of Huguely’s defense team that involved the testimony of another medical expert scheduled to testify for the defense.
Chapman sought to keep Uscinski from testifying and to have jurors disregard the testimony of the defense witness who said Love smothered in her pillow.
While Hogshire said Uscinski was likely “influenced by these emails,” he allowed him to testify but limited the extent of his testimony.
The defense hopes to finish its presentation Saturday.
Huguely and Love shared a tempestuous relationship, according to witnesses, marked by arguments, jealousy and infidelities.
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 her to die.
Huguely, who has pleaded not guilty, told police that he had gone to her apartment to talk the night of her death. But he said the encounter quickly turned physical after she “freaked out” and began hitting her own head against the wall of her bedroom.
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 return on Wednesday.
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