Verdict reached in Virginia lacrosse murder trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2012 7:03 PM
Verdict reached in Virginia lacrosse murder trial

By Brandon Shulleeta

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Reuters) - Jurors have reached a verdict in the first-degree murder case against a former University of Virginia lacrosse player accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in 2010, a city spokesman said Wednesday evening.

Prosecutors say George Huguely V, 24, walked into 22-year-old Yeardley Love's apartment while she was asleep, kicked in her bedroom door and slammed her head against the wall.

Prosecution expert witnesses said Love, from Cockeysville, Maryland, died about two hours later from blunt force trauma to the head.

Huguely and Love were both seniors and members of the university's nationally ranked men's and women's lacrosse teams at the time.

Jurors deliberated for about nine hours on Wednesday. Just after 6:30 p.m. local time, Charlottesville city spokesman Ric Barrick said a verdict had been reached and would be announced in the next 30 minutes to an hour.

The trial, now in its third week, has drawn national media attention to the quiet college town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Attorneys delivered closing arguments on Saturday, and the court proceedings resumed on Wednesday for scheduling reasons.

Defense attorneys argued prosecutors failed to prove Huguely intended to kill Love and suggested instead she suffocated in her bloody pillow.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Francis Lawrence acknowledged Huguely "played a role" in Love's death.

The defense said Huguely had visited Love in an attempt to patch up their relationship and was intoxicated, loud and clumsy the night of her death. Huguely told police he may have shaken Love "a little bit" but said she hit her own head against the wall.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is also charged with robbery, burglary at night, breaking and entering, grand larceny and murder during a robbery. He did not testify during the trial.

Jurors have the option of finding him guilty of a lesser charge such as manslaughter. If he is convicted of first-degree murder, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

(Reporting by Brandon Shulleeta; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch)