Jury: UVa Killer George Huguely Should Get 26 Years in Jail

George Huguely was found guilty of second degree murder.

February 22, 2012, 9:45 AM

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Feb. 22, 2012 — -- A jury recommended that a judge sentence George Huguely V to 26 years in prison just hours after finding him guilty of second-degree murder in the beating death of his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, at the University of Virginia.

The jury recommended 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and one year for a grand larceny conviction resulting from an allegation that Huguley stole Love's laptop.

Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire is scheduled to formally sentence Huguely, 24, on April 16.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Md., had his head down in court as the sentence recommendation was announced.

The Charlottesville, Va., jury of five women and seven men reached its guilty verdicts after nine hours behind closed doors. The sentencing recommendation came about three hours later.

Huguely was accused of killing Love in a drunken rage in 2010 just weeks before she was to graduate from the University of Virginia. Both Huguely and Love were star lacrosse players on the university's elite teams.

Two jurors gave ABC News their rationale for the verdict on their way out of the courthouse.

"We worked hard to come to a fair, just verdict," one juror said. "We had a good team -- educated, well-informed people. We all really believe justice was served. Everyone felt good about our decision."

The juror said there did not appear to be "premeditation," so they could not convict Huguely on the first-degree murder charge.

Members of the Huguely family were visibly upset as they left the courthouse.

A little girl, one of Huguely's cousins, was crying hysterically and saying, "That's too much."

Huguely's mother was kept protected on the inside of the group and Huguely family members did not speak to the media.

Huguely's attorney, Francis McQ. Lawrence, said the defense was "disappointed with this verdict but proud to represent George over the years."

"He has the support of a loving family, has displayed amazing resilience and courage, is hopeful and spiritual, and we look forward to some corrections on what happened here tonight," Lawrence said. "The courtroom saw his remorse during various times during the trial."

Sharon and Lexie Love, Yeardley Love's mother and sister, left the courthouse from a side exit and also did not speak to the media, though they released a written statement after the sentencing.

"We dread looking back on the events of May 3, 2010 and pray for the strength to get through each day," they wrote. "Time has not made us miss Yeardley any less, in fact quite the opposite. It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize that she is no longer here. Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world but we know that heaven has an angel like no other. We will continue to keep her spirit alive by performing works of kindness in her name. We would like to thank the commonwealth and particularly [prosecutor] Dave Chapman for his tireless efforts on our behalf.

"Our hearts burst with pride when we think of Yeardley's accomplishments but our hearts melt when we remember her kindness and grace. We have received letters from so many people telling us stories of her many acts of kindness. Intelligence and athletic ability are God given talents. Kindness and compassion are choices ... choices that Yeardley made every day without a second thought. We'd like to thank everyone for their kindness and respect of our privacy during such a difficult time."

Earlier Wednesday, as the verdict was announced, Huguely barely reacted, putting his hands to his face a few times near his chin. He looked over briefly at his family and friends in the front three rows of the courtroom.

The jurors immediately heard pre-sentencing testimony from Love's mother and sister and returned to the jury room to decide on a sentence for Huguely.

Sharon and Lexie Love gave emotional and tearful pleas for the jury to punish Huguely.

Sharon Love sobbed as she described life without her daughter.

"It's still with me every day from sunup to sundown," Love said through tears. "Every single day is different. Some days it's just unbearable."

"Every year goes by, I like to wonder what she would be doing now," Love's mother said.

Lexie Love was also tearful as she told the jury, "We shared a bathroom. ... All her stuff is still there. ... I don't want to touch or change a thing."

In telling how much she missed her sister, Lexie Love said, "I've never wanted something so bad in my life as it is to see her face again. ... It physically hurts."

Huguely hung his head as the women spoke.

The defense chose to not offer any witnesses in the sentencing phase. It was expected that Huguely's parents would testify during the sentencing because they stayed out of court during the trial, but they did not speak.

The jury buzzed twice with questions during the day.

About an hour into their deliberations this morning, they asked the judge to clarify the meaning of the word "reason" in a legal sense, but the judge told them it had the same meaning as in their everyday lives.

They later buzzed to ask for clarification on some of their jury instructions.

Evidence, including Love's bedroom door with a hole in it, were moved into the jury room earlier as well as a TV monitor, presumably for them to watch Huguely's video-taped statement to police.

The jurors also requested to see the apology letter that Huguely sent to Love in February 2010 following an incident in which he had been caught holding a terrified Love in a choke hold. The letter was found in Love's desk drawer after her death.

Jurors were shown the letter earlier in the trial, but its content was not been available to the public or media until prosecutor Warner Chapman read from the letter in his closing arguments.

"Alcohol is ruining my life," Chapman read. "I'm scared to know that I can get that drunk to the point where I cannot control how I act."

The jurors elected to work through lunch instead of taking a break. Lunches were delivered to the jury room.

In addition to the five women and seven men on the jury, two female alternate jurors were dismissed this morning after being chosen at random. The alternates were permitted to leave, but remained under oath until the conclusion of the case.

Huguely faced six charges, including first-degree murder, in Love's death.

Over 10 days in court, jurors listened to testimony from nearly 60 witnesses and saw a video of Huguely's police statement, graphic photos of Love's battered body, and read text and email correspondence between the two.

Though charged with first-degree murder, the judge gave jurors a menu of lesser charges they could from: second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense denied that Huguely was in Love's room the night of her death and was involved in an altercation with her. They differed on the severity of the encounter and whether Huguely was directly and intentionally responsible for Love's death.

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors painted a portrait of Huguely as a violent and enraged man who savagely beat Love in her bedroom and left her there to die. Prosecutors claimed that Love died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The defense depicted Huguely as a troubled young man whose problems with alcohol spiraled out of control. They described Huguely and Love's relationship as mutually tempestuous, with both of them jilting and betraying each other. They maintained that Huguely went to Love's bedroom with the intention to talk to her and that, while things got heated and he pushed her around a bit, he did not do anything severe enough to kill her.

During deliberations, jurors had the option of looking at evidence from the trial again, including Huguely's video-taped statement to the police hours after Love's death. Huguely said he and Love had wrestled on the floor, but that he never struck her.

Before finding out Love was dead, Huguely told police in his video-taped statement that when he went to see his former girlfriend the night of her death he told her to "chill out" and "shook her a little."

"We were just going to talk," Huguely told the officer in the video. "It was not at all a good conversation."

Another key piece of evidence from the trial was an email from Huguely to Love in which he wrote to her, "I should have killed you," referring to when he found out that she had been with another man. The prosecution used the email to show how angry Huguely was and as an example of his violent nature.