Opening statements and 8 witnesses heard today in Huguely trial

Posted at 7:06 PM, Feb 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-09 12:52:45-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WTVR) - Final jury selections were made in the George Huguely case on Wednesday, as well as opening statements delivered on both sides, and after lunch eight witnesses were called by the prosecution.

Huguely, 24, faces six charges, including first-degree murder, in connection with the death of Yeardley Love, his ex-girlfriend. Both Huguely and Love played lacrosse at the University of Virginia. [Read more about the case]

Opening statements began after a lengthy process of jury selection. The final jury of seven men and seven women was sworn-in around 10:30 Wednesday morning.

Two of the jurors will serve as alternates. Of the twelve jurors serving, two are African-American, making the jury mostly white.

Charlottesville Commonwealth's attorney Dave Chapman began opening statements by recalling the overall mood Love shared with her roommates and friends that weekend. He said they were "young women at the height of a college career," who were at the "end of what might be a celebratory weekend."

Prosecutors said that Huguely had sent Love an email that said "I should kill you." That was just one in a series of angry emails between the couple, whose relationship was painted as tumultous.

When Huguely's lawyer Francis Lawrence took the floor, he relayed the rest of the email's message; "I should have killed you. You should have killed me. You're so [profanity] up.

Chapman detailed the wounds Love displayed when her body was discovered; multiple abrasions to her head, scalp, eyes and mouth. He said she had severe bruising on her legs and arms.

Chapman added, and later a witness would confirm, that none of the injuries were related to lacrosse, and that Love had barely played in the recent game against Chicago's Northwestern University team.

The night that Love was found dead, she had been drinking and celebrating a friend's birthday at local Charlottesville restaurant Boylan Heights.

Chapman laid out a timeline for the evening in his opening statement. The team had returned, May 1, from an out-of-town game in Chicago. The alleged murder of Love occurred early morning May 3.

Love had returned from Boylan Heights with her roommate Caitlin Whiteley. Love had decided not to go back out drinking with her roommate and friends. Whiteley said that when she left again for the night, around 10:30 p.m., Love was topless, in her underwear and in her bedroom. The roommate noted that the front door was left unlocked.

The downstairs neighbor, Anna Lehman, who the defense said they will also call as a witness, told police that around 11:50 p.m. she heard a crash and bang and running upstairs.

"That's an assault taking place," said Chapman about the noise, in his opening statments.

Around 2:15 a.m., Whiteley returned home, with Philippe Oudshoorn, who waited in the hallway. She went into Love's room and found Love facedown in her pillow, a comforter pulled up to her back.

Whiteley said she knelt beside the bed to wake Love, and when she moved Love's hair, she saw blood. Love also had a black eye.

Oudshoorn administered CPR but said Love had no pulse when he checked.

The prosecutor made the case for blunt force trauma to the head, and said there was severe injury to the brain stem, which affects the respiratory system.

Gail Pennybacker, a reporter for WJLA in Washington, D.C., reported on Twitter that Love's mother cried in court when prosecutors told the jury Love laid in her bed for two hours dying following the assault.

By the time that police arrived at Huguely's apartment, it was early Monday morning.

The prosecutor implied that Huguely's lack of expression or interest in why police had picked him up, or where they were taking him was because of guilt.

Lawrence was adamant that nothing about Huguely seemed guilty at the time of his initial questioning.

"George reacted in disbelief," when he found out Love was dead, and "covered his head with his hands," said Lawrence. He said Huguely did not visit Love with intention for a murder to occur.

Chapman had told jurors Huguely took Love's computer from her room and threw it in the dumpster the night in question. He said the laptop contained angry correspondence between Huguely and Love.

Chapman told jurors that Huguely was upset at Love because she had slept with someone else, Mike Burns, who had previously seen the couple arguing.

The defense stated that Yeardley did not consider the email a real threat, as she showed it to several teammates and that the manner was casual, not scared.

Love had two roommates, who both took the stand on Wedneday.

Kaitlin Duff testified that the week before Love's death, some tennis players--unaware of Love's releationship with Huguely--mentioned that he had been hooking up with another girl Sharon Lodge.

Duff said that this suprised Love, and that she was upset.

Lawrence told jurors not to confuse domestic abuse with a turbulent relationship and that Love had hit Huguely in the past, with her purse.

The defense also contested the prosecutor's claims that Love's head ever hit the wall. The defense reiterated several times that no struggle seemed to ensue other than Huguely punching through Love's bedroom door, which was locked.

Lawrence also said no blood was found on Huguely's clothes that were sent to the lab for testing.

In his opening statement, Lawrence used such above examples to justify his plea that, "Involuntary manslaughter is the only verdict that requires your careful thought and deliberation."

The defense called the night "a perfect storm of terrible, terrible consequences." Huguely's roommates left to go on a beer run and when Huguely discovered he was alone in the apartment, he tried to get his downstair's neighbor to hang out, but he was studying.

The defense pointed out that Love was found in her usual sleeping spot on the bed and said that Love's blood-alcohol content level was around .16 to.18, which is significantly impaired, said the defense.

He said that although Huguely did see Love's bloody nose, he did not "intend for such a horrible result," as death.

Love's downstairs neighbor, Lehman, heard no calls for help, no banging around said the defense.

And the neighbor noted that when she saw Huguely leave the house, he wasn't walking fast--as someone with guilt would, alluded the defense.

The defense also countered accusations that the computer was stolen to hide evidence. They said that the computer was stolen and disposed of, but just on top of the dumpster, in plain sight, not hidden.

Lawrence said there would be no point for Huguely to grab the computer in order to hide evidence knowing that the emails would be saved on a server.

The defense claimed that Huguely was thinking "If I have her computer she will talk to me."

Lawrence then said "don't overlook things because he was drunk," but pleaded that the jurors understand "he probably made judgements not great because he was intoxicated."

The eight witnesses called by the Commonwealth's Attorney on Wednesday were: Sharon and Alexis Love (mother and sister), Mary McChesney (cousin), Kaitlin Duff (roommate), Caitlin Whiteley (roommate), Philippe Oudshoorn (friend), Anna Lehman (downstairs neighbor), and the officer first on the scene.

Proceedings began with Judge Edward Hogshire warning jurors not to check media during the trial.

Judge Hogshire also instructed jurors, who will be allowed to sleep at home during the trial, not to discuss the cases with loved ones.

Get developments throughout the trial on the Huguely trial page. [Click here]