In a civil case in Maryland in June, Sharon Love filed a brief alleging George Huguely was too drunk to intentionally kill her daughter, Yeardley, in 2010.
Huguely’s lawyers said at a July 20 Charlottesville court hearing that means she can’t sue for wrongful death in Virginia. And for the first time since her son was arrested for Love’s death shortly before the two lacrosse players would have graduated from UVA six years ago, Huguely’s mother, Marta Murphy, spoke out on the “terrible tragedy.”
Although Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder, he has always maintained he did nothing that would have resulted in Yeardley’s death, and even in his police interrogation on May 3, 2010, the morning she was found unresponsive in her bedroom, Huguely appeared genuinely shocked and disbelieving when police told him she was dead.
After his conviction in 2012, Sharon Love and her daughter Lexie Love filed a more than $30 million wrongful death suit, which has been on hold as Huguely’s appeal wended its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case last year.
Murphy’s insurance company, Chartis Property Casualty Company, is balking at covering Huguely under her and his stepfather’s policies for $6 million because the policies exclude criminal acts and because he’s refused to be interrogated by Chartis representatives. The company has sued in federal court in Maryland.
In that case, Sharon Love’s brief stated that Huguely, distraught over Yeardley breaking up with him, went over to talk to her, kicked in her bedroom door and had “an emotional conversation” with her, during which at one point Love banged her own head against the wall. Huguely denied striking her, although he did tell police they had “wrestled” and he noticed Love’s nose was bleeding.
Love was “alive and fine” when he left her apartment after “tossing” her onto the bed, her mother’s brief says.
The brief also cites experts who tallied Huguely’s alcohol consumption and estimate that over a 30-hour period, Huguely quaffed approximately 45 drinks and had a blood alcohol level of .38, which rendered him unable to form intent to harm Love and put him in a state of “alcoholic blackout.”
And that, say Huguely’s attorneys, was his position all along—that it was a “terrible accident” and Huguely did not intend to kill Love that night. “We’re happy the brief filed by Sharon Love in the district court in Maryland supports the same argument—that George didn’t intend to do it,” said Matthew Green. “We believe George and Yeardley were having a discussion on Yeardley’s bed and they fell,” which would account for the loud crash that sounded like a bookcase toppling, the downstairs neighbor testified at the murder trial she heard.
Back in Charlottesville Circuit Court, where Huguely was convicted after a two-week jury trial that drew national media attention, Sharon Love’s attorney, Irv Cantor, asked to extend a stay and continue the March 2017 trial, pending a decision in the Maryland case.
Green argued that while Huguely has accepted responsibility for negligence, four of five counts in Love’s wrongful death lawsuit should be dropped because her brief in Maryland amounted to judicial estoppel.
That means “you can’t have it both ways,” says legal expert David Heilberg. “Either it was intentional or unintentional. Love can’t claim it was unintentional to collect the insurance.”
Love was merely opposing a summary judgment motion and “what she said was they are issues for a jury to decide,” said Cantor.
Judge Rick Moore agreed to a stay, but not to push back the trial until another hearing October 18.
So far, 17 people have been deposed in the civil suit, and Green promised a “fuller truth” to what happened the night Yeardley Love died.
“We have done an incredible amount of work on the civil litigation,” he said. “We have tools that don’t exist in the criminal case, specifically the ability to take a deposition. We’re going to depose everyone. I think we’re going to be able to tell a full story when we get to trial.”
Heilberg notes that in a criminal trial, a conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while a civil trial merely requires a preponderance of evidence, and “one grain of sand” can tip the scales of justice.
Huguely also has filed a habeas petition, which is a civil proceeding in which he alleged he’s being wrongfully imprisoned because he received ineffective counsel during his trial.
His mother described the “profound loss” of both Love and her son. “It’s been six long years since the terrible tragedy of May 3,” she said. “It’s hard to describe in words the loss of Yeardley’s life, whom we all loved.
“I also have incredible pain for my son’s incarceration, and in spite of his second-degree conviction, Mrs. Love is now admitting and acknowledging it was an accident.”
Murphy said she hoped Love’s “admission of what actually happened that night” would bring peace to all those affected, “including the Love family.”
Correction 8/2/16: The original caption for Murphy had the wrong length of time since Huguely was convicted.