Three months after the conviction of George Huguely, the public got to see the evidence that helped convict him of the murder of Yeardley Love two years ago.
The reporters and members of the public who gathered in Charlottesville Circuit Court this week to see key evidence from the trial of George Huguely knew the details of the case already. His ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, was found dead two years ago this month after Huguely drunkenly kicked her door in late at night, wrestled with her on the floor, and left after tossing her, her nose bleeding, onto her bed.
But this was a chance to judge the jury’s decision for themselves, based on the details previously hidden from sight: Huguely’s face as he recounted their strained relationship, his animated telling of their fights, his storm of emotions on learning she never survived the night.
During the trial, the screen showing the evidence—Huguely’s hourlong interrogation by police and a slideshow of photographs, forensic documents, and e-mail and text transcripts—was turned toward the jury and away from the courtroom audience. A group of media companies has been petitioning for access to it since, and this week, the court allowed them and any other observers a two-day window to see what the jury saw.
What they watched was Huguely’s life as he knew it ending.
In the video, recorded May 3, 2010, Charlottesville Police Detectives Lisa Reeves and Ed Pracher sat for more than an hour in a narrow cinderblock room with Huguely—disheveled, dressed in a dark shirt and shorts, and sounding at least a little drunk—and asked him about the night before.
Huguely, then 22, talked animatedly about his relationship with Love, the fights they’d recently had, the messages they’d sent back and forth. He mimed shaking her after he broke into her unlit bedroom and demanded they talk, and mimicked how he claimed she threw herself against the wall.
“She was flopping like a fish out of water,” he said, twitching his whole body and gripping his own arms to show how he’d grabbed her.
When the detectives pressured him on details, Huguely froze and stared ahead, apparently thinking hard. Finally, after leaving him alone in the room more than once, the detectives looked at one another, then dropped the bombshell.
“She’s dead,” Reeves said matter-of-factly. “You killed her. She’s dead.”
Huguely sat perfectly still, a hand under his chin. The courtroom of spectators was as silent as the interrogation room in the video. Then, still frozen, he echoed Reeves’ words.
“She’s dead?” There was another pause, then: “How is she dead? How the fuck is she dead?”
“You just told us,” Reeves replied.
For the next 20 minutes, Huguely appeared to go from stunned silence to disbelieving horror and anger, weeping and raging at the police and insisting they were lying. When they stood him up to cuff him and formally charge him, the band name on his T-shirt was finally visible: The Police. He leaned his head against the wall where he stood. “Oh my God,” he said. “Kill me.”
Over and over, he repeated his disbelief. “She’s not dead,” he said, grimacing, stomping one foot, rocking back and forth in his chair, gasping and sobbing. “I know she’s not dead. She’s not dead.”
His interrogators quietly assured him she was. “I’m not lying to you,” said Pracher. “It’s true.”
The tape ends with Huguely pitched forward, his face on the table in front of him. “There’s no way,” he said in his last recorded words. “There’s no way.”
Seeing the evidence changed at least one person’s opionion of the case.
Elizabeth Blake sat directly in front of the TV screen throughout the video and the half-hour slideshow that followed, showing messages that revealed Huguely’s and Love’s bitter, nasty verbal fights and crime scene photos depicting their typically messy college apartments and Love’s bloodied bed. A former UVA Student Health Center employee, Blake said she’d met both Huguely and Love and sat through much of the February trial, which ended with the jury convicting Huguely and recommending he spend 26 years in prison. She felt different about Huguely after watching him react on the tape.
“After seeing it, I don’t think he meant to kill her,” Blake said after leaving the courtroom. At the same time, she said, her sympathy for Love’s mother Sharon Love, who has filed civil suits against not only Huguely but his lacrosse coaches and UVA, is waning.
“Going around suing people isn’t going to bring Yeardley back,” said Blake.