George Huguely Trial Postponed Because His Attorney Is Sick

PHOTO: George Huguely is escorted to Charlottesville Circuit Court by members of the Sheriffs Office for the start of his trial in Charlottesville, Va, Feb. 9, 2012.
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George Huguely V's murder trial resumed briefly today over his objections but went into recess a few witnesses later because his defense attorney is sick. Huguely preferred not to proceed without both his lawyers, but the judge initially decided to carry on.

Defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana's unspecified illness forced the court to postpone the trial Thursday, and defense co-counsel Fran Lawrence arrived to court solo this morning with word that she was still ill. Quagliana has handled the defense's medical experts.

"We will not have any difficulty finishing tomorrow," Lawrence reassured the judge.

But the judge later postponed the session after Lawrence informed the court that Quagliana was too ill to defend her client.

Court will resume at 9 a.m. Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., and not again until Wednesday.

The medical experts Quagliana has been preparing to question are key to Huguely's defense. He has been charged with first-degree murder, but his defense attorneys said in opening statements that the most serious charge jurors should consider is involuntary manslaughter.

The prosecution has alleged that Huguley, after a day of heavy drinking, beat Yeardley Love in her bedroom and then left her to die. Experts for the prosecution said that Love died from blunt force trauma to the head. Both of them were lacrosse players at the University of Virginia.

The defense opened its case Wednesday with a medical expert who told a radically different story.

A brain expert for the defense testified that Love died by suffocating in her pillow after a day of heavy drinking.

Neuropathologist Dr. Jan Leestma told the court that Love's cause of death was deprivation of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Love was found bloody and face-down in a pillow, which would make breathing very difficult, Leestma said.

The doctor testified that the combination of Love's position and her pillow's being wet from blood could have produced the lack of oxygen that led to suffocating.

Testimony began this morning with non-medical witnesses, including Huguely's aunt Alina Massaro who narrated surveillance video from a burger bar, Boylan Heights, where she and her daughters saw Huguley and Love the night before Love's death.

Massaro called her nephew "Georgie" as she narrated the tape and identified him and Love holding hands. She said they were all laughing and having a good time, with no indication that anything was wrong between the two.

Only the jurors, judge, attorneys, Huguely and Massaro could see the tape. It was not visible to the public or the media.

The jurors watched the video intently, with some even leaning forward in their chairs to avoid missing anything.

Two young women that were in high school at the time of Love's death and were in Huguely's apartment the night Love allegedly hit him with her purse also testified.

The young women testified that they had been visiting the University of Virginia and that they were waiting in Huguely's apartment while their host was elsewhere.

One of the women said Huguely was "perfectly nice" and that Love was angry when she came in and asked Huguely if these were the girls he had been texting.

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