|(Balimore Sun Photo)|
Yesterday, a jury found Huguely guilty of second degree murder and then recommended 26 years in prison for the beating death of “his former girlfriend amid a swirl of betrayal, distrust, anger and a culture of drinking.”
According to the AP, the prosecutor who meticulously and methodically constructed the case spoke glumly late Wednesday about a trial that put on display a much-diminished athlete and the horrific injuries he inflicted upon the young woman he professed to love. It played out before two families shattered by the experience.
Jurors deliberated about nine hours before returning a verdict on the murder count, then recommended that Huguely serve 25 years. The maximum prison term for second-degree murder is 40 years. He also was found guilty of grand larceny, with the jury recommending one year in prison.
Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire set an April court date for sentencing matters before formal sentencing, expected to be held in summer. He is not bound by the jury’s recommendations, but Virginia judges typically heed jurors’ wishes.
The jury of seven men and five women considered testimony from nearly 60 witnesses over nine days.
They had to decide whether Huguely battered Love to death in a jealous outburst or if his intent to talk with her spiraled out of control and she died accidentally. They also suggested her own drinking and a prescription drug used for attention deficit disorder could have contributed to her death.
Huguely killed Love, a U.Va. women’s lacrosse player from suburban Baltimore, after a day of golf and binge drinking, incensed that she had had a relationship with a North Carolina lacrosse player, the prosecution said. Love’s right eye was bashed in and she was hit with such power that her brain was bruised. She also had wrenching head injury that caused bleeding at the base of her brain stem.
A coroner concluded she died of blunt force trauma. Defense and prosecution experts offered different medical opinions on the lethal consequences of her injuries.
Jurors heard testimony from lacrosse players who told of Huguely’s escalating drinking problem and public spats between the two. The incidents included Huguely putting Love in a chokehold while on his bed, and one in which Love accused him of flirting with two high school girls.
In closing arguments that left some shaking their heads, Huguely’s attorney described him as a hulking, hard-drinking jock but no killer. He acknowledged Huguely had an unintended, accidental role in Love’s death, arguing for a finding of involuntary manslaughter and a 10-year prison term.
He suggested their behavior was the norm in the “lacrosse ghetto” at U.Va.
Love’s death will have a lasting effect in Virginia.
Last year, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law that expanded criteria under which people can seek protective orders. The measure allows people in dating relationships or those who face threatening co-workers to more easily obtain such an order.