Image by Nick Strocchia.
At 6:30pm, after nine hours of deliberation, there was a verdict. Reporters ran outside and held up two fingers in a V.
“Verdict! We’ve got a verdict!”
The defendant’s family filed in, foreheads daubed with ash, one young woman giving George a tiny wave. Judge Hogshire instructed the room that there would be no outbursts, and with barely a pause, announced that George Huguely had been found guilty of second degree murder and grand larceny.
It was over in about 20 seconds. Huguely’s young cousins and sister cried silently, but Huguely himself sat still. The court moved quickly to the sentencing phase. The prosecution called Sharon and Lexie Love, the victim’s mother and sister, back to the stand, and each one described how Yeardley Love’s death had changed their lives. Huguely hung his head, eyes seemingly closed.
“Sometimes you think you can bear it … some days it’s just unbearable. … Christmas is a nightmare. … Every year that goes by I’m afraid that I’m forgetting little pieces about her, which worries me. … There’s a huge hole that will always be there and nothing can fill it. … The absolute worst thing in the world that could happen, happened.”
The defense called no witnesses. Dave Chapman gave his closing statement. In 2008, Huguely was convicted for public drunkenness and resisting arrest, and afterwards, Chapman said, did nothing to change his behavior. In February of 2010, Love and Huguely fought and he tried to choke her, and again, nothing changed. Two months later, someone’s little girl never woke up again.
Rhonda Quagliana stood and said that no person is the sum of their worst decisions. People deserve redemption. Nothing you decide, she reminded the jury, will bring Love back, but that does not diminish the impact it will have on George. She sat down, and the jury left. Huguely never looked up, not once. By the end he was crying. His mom sat in the front row next to his sister. There was no sign of his father.
The jury retired at 7:55pm to decide on a sentence. Some time around 9pm it began to rain, on the podium set up on the steps of the courthouse, and on the phalanx of cameras facing it. Pizza arrived for the jury, and then the delivery guy came back and began hawking pizzas to the reporters huddled on the porch reading a statement from the Love family into their phones.
At 9:55 the bell rang. Huguely stood up when the jury walked in and fidgeted with his jacket button. There was no preamble. For the charge of second degree murder the defendant is sentenced to 25 years in prison. For the charge of grand larceny the defendant is sentenced to one year in prison. There is no parole. Huguley’s head stayed down.
Was he doing the math? I’m 24. Twenty-four plus 25 equals 49. If the charges are consecutive, that makes 50. I will be 50 years old when I get out of prison. Fifty isn’t that old. Fifty isn’t dead.
But when you’re 24, 50 might as well be dead. Fifty is a number that belongs to someone else.
The jury left and Huguely remained sitting with his head down. He looked like he was slowly collapsing into himself. He looked over at his family. His father wasn’t there. He looked down, then back at his family. A sheriff’s deputy touched his shoulder and he stood up, turned to his left, was led towards the far door. And when the door closed behind him there was a loud BANG that hung for a second or two in the large, brightly lit courtroom and then faded away.
Look for a final commentary on the entire Huguely Trial in Tuesday’s edition of C-VILLE.