George Wesley Huguely V, a 24-year-old former UVA lacrosse player, is charged with first degree murder, felony murder, robbery, burglary, statutory burglary, and grand larceny, in conjunction with the May 3, 2010 death of fellow UVA student and lacrosse player, Yeardley Love. Huguely showed up for his trial noticeably thinner, clean cut, and wearing a suit that seems slightly too big. (Image courtesy of Nick Strocchia.)
At first I didn’t recognize him, which is crazy, since for the last week I’ve been thinking of nothing but George Huguely. Outside the courtroom I heard a TV cameraman say, “I don’t know what anyone looks like,” but that certainly wasn’t the case with me and Huguely.
I knew exactly what he looked like, his soft, boozy face has stared at me from my computer screen every day. But now he’s thin, almost gaunt, and the shaggy hair that he’d shaved in prison has grown back and is cut short and neat. Walking into court he looked for all the world like a young law student. He stood as the charges were read to him, in language slow and formal, and answered “Not guilty,” to each one, and then sat down and the trial began.
I recognized Yeardley’s mother Sharon and her sister Lexie immediately, partly because they were wearing bright pink. Huguely’s mom Marta Murphy, a one-time model, is stick thin and blond. His dad, George Huguely IV, looks slick, like he owns a Porsche dealership in Phoenix. Neither one of Huguely’s parents showed much emotion during the day. Huguely himself looked a bit dazed at first, but as the trial commenced he became very focused and involved, spending a lot of time taking notes and conferring with his lawyers. He watched the proceedings intently.
The Love family and friends were more emotional, alternating between laughter, quiet tears, and seriousness. A lot of the time it seemed like Lexie was glaring angrily at Huguely, but it was hard to say for sure, and there was one delightful moment when Sharon Love spent several minutes watching the courtroom artist work with a big smile on her face.
That’s the most I can say about the main players. Today was taken up entirely with jury selection, and it continues tomorrow. It was not a day of high drama. Veteran reporters brought books to read. By midday we’d barely begun to scratch the surface of the 160 total potential jurors, and even Judge Hogshire was getting pissed.
“We’re not gonna pick a jury this way,” he said, and started arguing with the lawyers about how in the hell they were ever going to finish before summer.
It’s a strange time for judges and lawyers. Juries in the age of the Internet are a whole other beast from the ignorant juries of yore. We’re all instant experts now, diligent Wikipedia detectives. The pre-trial motion about whether or not to sequester the jury goes on for 28 pages of hand wringing about the dangers of the Web and those meddlesome "bloggers."
Before the trial started, a friend of mine told me that juries are made up of people too stupid to get out of doing jury duty. From what I saw today, potential juries are made up of pretty much everybody. UVA professors, old folks, baristas, scientists; a basic cross-section of society, with all races and ages, etc. represented. What surprised me was how much it seemed like the jurors themselves were on trial. As defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana asked them endless questions, countless mini tragedies emerged, stories of wife beating and alcoholism and medical school.
But the questions asked give some clues about the possible defense strategy. Quagliana pushed hard about drinking and student misbehavior, and it seems likely that they’ll try to use Huguely’s drinking as a defense against premeditation. But she also indicated that bad behavior on Love’s part, specifically sex, alcohol, and yelling, might come up as evidence of motive.
The line of the night belonged to Judge Hogshire.
Quagliana (objecting to a juror): “She said she thought young people were out of control.”
Hogshire: “Is there anybody who doesn’t?”
I couldn’t help but stare at George Huguely. He showed no sign of nervousness or emotion, just watched the courtroom proceedings with occasional glances at his dad. According to testimony at the preliminary trial, when Huguely was told that Love was dead, he kept saying, “Where is she? Is she all right?”
If turns out he doesn’t remember what happened that night, then what has he been thinking about for the last two years? I kept watching him, his face almost totally blank, wondering if, when he said “not guilty” six times, he actually felt guilty inside.