Things We Wish Criminal Defense Attorneys Would Say

On February 8, George Huguely’s first-degree murder trial began in Charlottesville, Virginia. Yeardley Love, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend, was beaten to death in May 2010. At the University of Virginia, both the victim and the perpetrator were lacrosse players (this fact will be become important, at least to the defense, in a moment). This case, and others like it, seems to be about the use of words on both sides, rather than the application of the law. Check Stroleny Law, P.A.

The defence argued that “she died in a terrible accident” while the Commonwealth of Virginia prosecutor found it a murder committed out of jealous rage. According to the prosecutor, Huguely took the victim’s computer and tossed it into a dumpster the night of the murder to hide the e-mails he had sent her. Huguely’s attempt to get Love to “reach out to him” the morning after their confrontation, the defence argued, was Huguely’s way of trying to get her to “reach out to him.”

Before her murder, he sent Love an e-mail on April 30, 2010 that said, “You said you’d get back together with me if I stopped getting drunk a week ago, and then you didn’t (are unfaithful). I should’ve assassinated you.”

Huguely was angry, according to the prosecutor, because she had a relationship with a male lacrosse player from the University of North Carolina. The defence attorney described what the Commonwealth attorney considered a threat to damage her as “innocent idiom,” rather than a threat.

Okay, that’s it. “I could have killed you” has the same semantic weight as “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” or “I could kill for a cigarette right now,” according to this definition.

According to the prosecution, Huguely kicked in Love’s bedroom door and aggressively shook her, causing brain damage. His lawyer characterised it as a “physical encounter” between the two. “George never, never, never intended to kill her,” he said. In his opening speech, he assured the jury that Huguely was incapable of planning a murder. “He isn’t overly complex. He isn’t a complicated person. He’s a lacrosse player, to be precise.” (I’m curious if Huguely, when sitting next to his lawyer, suddenly realised, “Hello there! Hold on a second! He just called me a dunderhead!” )