UVA Lacrosse Murder Trial: George Huguely Pleads Not Guilty

George Huguely charged with first-degree murder in the death of Yeardley Love.

February 6, 2012, 10:52 AM

Feb. 6, 2012 — -- Former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely pleaded not guilty today to six charges, including first-degree murder, in the 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend and classmate Yeardley Love.

Jury selection began today for the trial that is expected to last through next week. The court is choosing 12 jurors and three alternates from a pool of 160 potential jurors. The jurors are from Charlottesville, Va., and will not be sequestered during the trial.

Huguely, 24, appeared in court today where he pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, felony murder in a robbery or attempted robbery, burglary, robbery of a residence, grand larceny and entering a house with intention to commit a felony, according to media reports.

Huguely was somber and showed little emotion. He took notes while potential jurors answered questions about what they had heard about the case. Huguely's family had two rows. His mother and her new husband were there as well as his father.

Love, 22, was found dead face-down in a pool of blood in the early hours of May 3, 2010 in her off-campus apartment in Charlottesville. Her face was covered in scrapes and bruises, according to a police warrant, and her right eye was swollen shut.

Love's mother Sharon and sister Lexie were both in the courtoom and both wore pink. As details were read on the charges, Love's aunt dabbed tears from her eyes. The family sat quietly, shuddering a few times when references were made to Huguely being Love's ex-boyfriend.

Love was a star lacrosse player at the school and a senior just weeks away from graduation. Her murder rocked the tight-knit college town and became a source of national attention.

Huguely, also a lacrosse player for the school's nationally ranked team, waived his Miranda Rights in interviews with police after Love was found and confessed that he kicked in the door to Love's bedroom and shook her violently, repeatedly banging her head against the wall, according to police documents.

His attorneys have since claimed that Love's murder was a tragic mistake and that Love's death was caused by an irregular heartbeat caused by Adderall and alcohol, not a brutal beating. They also claim that Huguely did not know Love had died until he was told by a detective.

George Huguely Pleads Not Guilty in Murder of Ex-Girlfriend Yeardley Love

An autopsy performed on Love found that she died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Scott Goodman, a Charlottesville attorney who does not represent any parties involved in the case, said defense attorneys would likely work to prove that there was no malice or premeditation in Huguely's act and that is was a "hot-blooded, heated, passion-type killing" so that they could get the charge dropped down to manslaughter.

"I'm sure they're [the defense] trying to raise reasonable doubt as to whether there was premeditated murder and whether there was malice," Goodman said.

If convicted of first degree murder, Huguely could be sentenced to life in prison. He could face 40 years if convicted of second degree murder. A manslaughter conviction could lower the sentence to 10 years.

But Huguely's confession to police this move could be disastrous for him, Goodman said.

"As a defense lawyer, you always want your clients not to waive their rights because the defendant sort of locks down his story and gives police very valuable evidence against them," Goodman told ABCNews.com. "Those are all very incriminating factors in the case."

A judge has issued a gag order over the attorneys involved in the case, preventing them from speaking publicly during the course of the trial.

In addition to Huguely's videotaped interview following the discovery of Love's body, another key piece of evidence expected to be used are the previously redacted emails between Love and Huguely surrounding their break-up.

The medical examiner who conducted Love's autopsy is expected to testify and jurors will weigh that testimony against an expert the defense will bring in, according to Goodman.

In addition to medical experts, Love's mother Sharon and sister Lexie are expected to testify as well as Love's roommate, teammates and friends who knew about her relationship with Huguely.

Huguely's arrest in Love's case was not his first run-in with the law. He had been arrested before for resisting arrest and public intoxication, charged with reckless driving and involved in a domestic dispute with his father on the family yacht.

Huguely is being held without bond in the Albermarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

Additional reporting by ABC News' Cleopatra Andreadis.

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