On the morning of May 3, during the same hour that Charlottesville police arrested George Huguely in connection with the death of classmate and ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love, officers also searched the second-floor bedroom of Love’s 14th Street apartment. In addition to sheets stained with red, officers found a bottle of Adderall—an amphetamine that, according to a medical expert hired by Huguely’s defense attorneys, casts doubt on Love’s reported cause of death.
For nearly two hours last week, a half-filled Charlottesville courtroom heard competing interpretations of Love’s cause of death while Judge Robert Downer deliberated whether to grant access to four years of Love’s medical records. Huguely, charged with first degree murder after confessing that he shook Love against a wall until she bled, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Ultimately, Downer told the 20 or so in attendance that he would review evidence in his chambers to determine what portions of Love’s medical records are material to the case.
“I’m not going to permit a fishing expedition,” said Downer, repeating a phrase used by Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman, who deemed subpoenae filed by defense attorneys Rhonda Quagliana and Frances McQ. Lawrence “grossly overbroad.” Chapman declined to comment for this story, and requests for comment to Quagliana and Lawrence were not returned.
During the hearing, a private medical consultant hired by Huguely’s defense to review Love’s autopsy report testified that Love’s medical history could show whether an additional medicine, coupled with Adderall, might have given Love cardiac arrhythmia, potentially fatal. Asked whether he was satisfied with blunt-force trauma as Love’s reported cause of death, Jack Daniel—a forensic pathologist and lawyer based in Richmond—responded, “No.” According to Daniel, Love’s brain injuries could be attribtued to a lack of oxygen, while cortical contusions could be attributed to “vigorous CPR.”
Daniel has previously reviewed autopsies for defendants facing murder charges. In 2009, Daniel testified on behalf of the defense for David Swain, convicted of drowning his wife during a scuba diving expedition near the British Islands in 1999. According to reports, Daniel said Swain’s wife, Shelley Tyre, may have suffered a heart attack or stroke that caused her death. Swain called Tyre’s death a “tragic accident”—a phrase similar to that used by Huguely’s defense, who called Love’s death “an accident with a tragic outcome.”
Cross-examined by Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman, Daniel conceded that the amount of amphetamine in Love’s system was “not a sky-high amount.” While Love’s blood-alcohol content was nearly double the legal limit, a toxicology report returned less than 0.05 milligrams of amphetamine per liter of blood, according to assistant chief medical examiner William Gormley.
Prior to Daniel, Chapman asked Gormley, who was tasked with Love’s autopsy, whether Love’s medical records would illuminate any of the injuries documented in her autopsy. Gormley replied, “No.” Cross-examined by Huguely’s attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, Gormley said he could not see cardiac arrhythmia as a cause of the brain injuries, but possibly as a result of them. Downer said he will contact attorneys when he has reached a decision concerning Love’s medical records.