The public is getting its first look at the interrogation tape jurors watched in the trial of former University of Virginia lacrosse player, George Huguely. A jury member tells News4's Julie Carey why Huguely's response to the death of Yeardley Love may have saved him from a harsher sentence.
George Huguely spoke few words at his murder trial in February, but the videotaped police interrogation played for jurors was a critical piece of evidence.
Tuesday, for the first time, the media and public had the chance to both see and hear the 64-minute, emotionally charged interview conducted just hours after University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead in her apartment. During the trial, the video monitor was turned away from the public, so observers could only hear the exchange between two detectives and Huguely, then a member of UVA’s men’s lacrosse team.
"You have to be cognizant it's part of a large body of evidence. There were a lot of things in there that we questioned factually," juror Ian Glomski told News4. "I think the greatest value was seeing the psychological state of mind George was in essentially the day after."
The video shows a disheveled Huguely sitting at the end of a small table in the interrogation room inside the Charlottesville police headquarters. He's not handcuffed, and the two detectives who question him offered a glass of water. At first, he was told he was being investigated for an assault, and the atmosphere was fairly casual. His speech seems somewhat slurred as he detailed the more than dozen drinks he had the day before. He complained profanely and bitterly about recent fights with Love, whom he referred to as his "former girlfriend."
As detectives pressed, details of the attack on Love emerged. At first, Huguely denied kicking a hole through Love’s door but later admitted it. Huguely told the detectives that Love was "totally freaking out" as soon as he entered her bedroom. In the video, Huguely lightly banged his own head against the wall and told police, "She was hitting her head against the wall. I shook her and said, ‘We need to talk.'" He said they wrestled on the floor and he swiped at his nose as he told police Love's nose started to bleed.
After about 50 minutes, the detectives briefly left the room. When they returned, the good cop routine was over. They stunned Huguely with the news that Yeardley Love was dead.
"I have to tell you something," Detective Lisa Reeves said. "She's dead. You killed her, George."
For a moment Huguely was silent. Then in a profane, almost hysterical rant that lasted for more than 10 minutes, he insisted over and over again, "I don't believe she's dead. There's no way she's dead. I didn't do anything last night that would kill her."
At times he stomped his feet on the floor to punctuate his denials. Detectives handcuffed him. Finally, it seemed to sink in to Huguely. He lowered his head to the table, let out a wail and started to cry.
Huguely's breakdown made a strong impression on jurors, Glomski said. When it was played during the trial, several jurors and Huguely began to weep.
"When things start off, he's basically a bad boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar," Glomski said. "Then when they tell him Yeardley's dead, there is a very big change in his demeanor and you can see the psychological pain and breakdown he's going through... I think that's some of the most real information we got."
The video convinced jurors that Huguely did not intend to kill Love, Glomski said.
"That video in many ways, I can't speak for all, that convinced me he really had no idea first off that she was dead and therefore means he didn't go over there with the intent to kill her," Glomski said.
He and his fellow jurors convicted Huguely of second-degree murder and recommended 26 years in prison. A judge will sentence him Aug. 30.
In the meantime, attorneys hired by News4 and several other media outlets will continue legal efforts to gain the ability to make copies of evidence in the case so it can be shared more broadly. The court is offering just two viewings. Along with the videotape, photos of the crime scene deemed "non-sensitive” were displayed. Most striking was Love's bloody pillow where she was lying when her roommate found her dead. Text messages and emails revealing the volatile, sometimes violent relationship between Huguely and Love were also part of a slide show played for reporters.
Only about a dozen reporters and two members of the public attended the first viewing session.