Julie Carey, Art Lien
Friends and family of killed University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love take the stand in the murder trial of George Huguely, the victim's accused ex-boyfriend. (Courtroom sketches by Art Lien.)
Lawyers described for the jury an abusive relationship between a University of Virginia women's lacrosse player and the ex-boyfriend accused in her death.
Before the trial, the defense team had advanced the argument that a fatal cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol had led to Love's death, not traumatic head injuries caused by George Huguely, a member of the men's lacrosse team at UVA.
On Wednesday, during opening statements, attorneys for Huguely offered a new version of events. Defense attorney Francis Lawrence said that Love died from asphyxia brought on by heavy alcohol consumption. Defense attorneys said that the reason for the bleeding found in Love's brain was because of the force of the CPR resuscitation attempts, not because of Hugueley's actions.
“It is our position everything about her terrible injury was unintended and unexpected,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence also told the courtroom that throughout their relationship at UVA, both Love and Huguely had been abusive toward each other.
The defense is attempting to steer the jury towards a charge of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder.
Friends and family were among the first to testify following opening statements Wednesday.
"I talked to Yeardley every day," Yeardley Love's mother, Sharon, testified. "Every single day of her life."
In addition to Love's mother, her sister and two roomates testified. One roommate said she was with Love when she learned that Huguely was seeing someone else, which made Love very upset.
In cross examination, the defense asked the roommate about how much alcohol Love regularly consumed.
Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman said both Love and Huguely had been drinking the day of her death -- Huguely almost nonstop. Huguely's attorneys said he was very drunk that night and incapable of plotting to kill Love.
Prosecutors said that Love had shared with her friends an email from Huguely in which he allegedly said he should have killed Love after finding out about another guy. Two days before Love's death, Huguely accused Love in an email of having a relationship with a University of North Carolina lacrosse player, Chapman said.
"When I found out about Mike Burns, I should have killed you," the email said, according to Chapman.
Love showed the email to her teammates, Chapman said.
The defense said the email is just an example of the type of relationship the couple had.
“Don’t think this was any kind of a threat,” Lawrence said. “She showed it to all her friends … He wanted to talk, to make up, work things out.”
Love's roommates and teammates said Huguely and Love dated for two years, but in their final year of college it became an on-again, off-again relationship, which contributed to arguments and the exchange of angry and abusive emails, the Associated Press reported.
Defense attorney Lawrence said a videotape of Huguely's interview with police will show he is not a calculating criminal.
"He's not complicated. He's not complex. He's a lacrosse player," Lawrence said.
Huguely went to Love's apartment to talk and work things out, not to kill her, Lawrence said. He took the laptop as "collateral" -- a way to get her to continue to talk to him, not to destroy evidence, the defense attorney said.
Huguely wasn't aware Love was dead until police informed him later, Lawrence said.
Kaitlin Duff and Caity Whiteley, discussed Love's on-again, off-again relationship with Huguely, including details of arguments and a conversation with two men's tennis players in which Love inadvertently discovered Huguely was dating another woman.
Whiteley said that Love did have “some sort of relationship” with Burns, the North Carolina lacrosse player who was a friend of Whiteley from high school.
The women also recounted what the three friends did in the days and hours leading up to Love's death, including many outings in which they consumed alcohol. Whiteley and Love were planning to go out the last night she saw her alive, but Whiteley said Love ended up staying in.
Whiteley and a friend, UVA tennis player Philippe Oudshoorn, discovered Love unresponsive, face down in her bed, when the two returned to the apartment in the early morning hours. She started crying as she testified about seeing blood on the bedding, along with cuts and assorted injuries on her roommate's face.
She said she gave officers information about Huguely soon after they arrived on the scene and also told them about the emails.
The defense attorney tried to point to prior statements Whiteley made about how many drinks Love consumed during their outings on the last day she was seen alive. He also indicated that Whiteley had told officers investigating Love's death that she thought Love was drunk and was going to “pass out.”
But Whiteley denied Wednesday that Love was “crazy or out of control.”
Love's downstairs neighbor, Anna Lehmann, talked about hearing a very loud sound in the apartment above her, along with loud footsteps. She testified she saw a stocky male, about 6 feet tall, with brown hair and wearing a royal blue shirt leaving the building about 10 minutes later.
Wednesday's testimony concluded with an officer who described the scene.
Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and five other charges in the May 2010 death of 22-year-old Love.
Court documents say the 24-year-old defendant told investigators he kicked in Love's bedroom door, then shook her during an argument, causing her head to hit a wall several times. The state medical examiner's office said Love died of trauma to the head.
When court reconvened at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, attorneys from the prosecution and defense whittled the pool of 28 down to seven male jurors, seven female jurors and two alternates.