No retrial for George Huguely

George Huguely continues to try to get out of prison with a petition for habeas corpus.
Charlotteville Police George Huguely continues to try to get out of prison with a petition for habeas corpus. Charlotteville Police

Convicted murderer George Huguely sat in Charlottesville Circuit court once again Wednesday while his attorneys argued the need for a retrial, presenting a number of motions to Judge Edward Hogshire. During the three-hour trial on Wednesday, Hogshire heard multiple arguments from the defense, but denied each request and said “I think there was overwhelming evidence to support that verdict,” crushing any hopes of lowering Huguely’s second-degree murder and grand larceny convictions.

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana first returned again to the argument that the court should have granted her request to delay the case when she fell ill during the February trial. She said a courtroom is a last vestige of sorts, one of the only places in society where everything—from standing up for the judge to wearing suits instead of cut-offs—is done for symbolic importance. Continuing the case without her not only violated Huguely’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choosing, she said, but it sent a bad message that she shouldn’t have been here.

But Hogshire stuck to his guns, saying he saw no basis for a Sixth Amendment violation.

Quagliana’s defense team partner, Francis McQ. Lawrence, then argued that several members of the selected jury had been prejudiced due to their connections to UVA and past experiences with alcoholism and domestic violence. With exaggerated tone and inflection, Lawrence read aloud several juror comments that he found inappropriate, and argued that several jurors couldn’t prove their ability to serve on the jury without prejudice.

But Hogshire shot him down, too. Had any of the jurors been unsuitable, “I never would’ve allowed any of those people to sit on this jury,” he said. He described the task of carefully choosing jurors, and said that part of his job is to read body language and determine credibility.

Finally, Quagliana and Hogshire discussed the decision to limit expert witness Dr. Ronald H. Uscinski’s testimony. Lengthy e-mail correspondence between Uscinski and Quagliana had surfaced that almost led to the testimony being thrown out altogether, and Hogshire said allowing Uscinski to take the stand at all was generous. He said the way Quagliana coordinated with expert witnesses was inappropriate, but also not a basis for a new trial.

While his attorneys went over the same ground in a last-ditch effort at a retrial, Huguely, unshaven and clad in an oversized striped jumpsuit, looked oddly relaxed. Sixth months to the day after his conviction, he’s clearly mastered drinking water and scratching his nose while handcuffed, and the spaced-out, hollow gaze often seen on his face during the February weeks in court was gone. He was attentive during the arguments, but seemed unsurprised by and almost at peace with Hogshire’s decision. Charlottesville seems ready to put the case that seized so much media attention away for good next week. Maybe Huguely is too.