Virginia court rejects ex-lacrosse player's bid for new murder trial

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 05, 2014 11:07 AM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - The Virginia Court of Appeals has denied a request for a new trial for a former University of Virginia lacrosse player convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend four years ago in a drunken rage.

George Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder in 2012 for killing Yeardley Love, 22, who was also a lacrosse player, in a case that drew national attention to the issues of domestic violence and alcohol abuse.

Huguely, now 26, had appealed the murder conviction, contending his constitutional right to counsel was violated when a judge allowed his trial to proceed though one of his two attorneys had fallen ill with stomach flu.

In an opinion issued on Tuesday, a three-judge appeals court panel said that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that trial judges could make scheduling and other decisions that, in effect, exclude a defendant's first choice of attorney.

Guarantees for counsel under the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment do not require that a trial "must completely grind to a halt ... simply because one of the defendant's retained attorneys has become ill," the judges said.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was also convicted of grand larceny and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors said Love, from Cockeysville, Maryland, died of blunt-force trauma after Huguely forced his way into her apartment bedroom and slammed her head against a wall in a drunken rage.

At the time, Love and Huguely were members of the University of Virginia's nationally ranked women's and men's lacrosse teams.

The incident prompted reforms at the university in its sexual misconduct policy and the reporting of relationship abuse.

(Editing by Ian Simpson and Bernadette Baum)