George Huguely Trial: Yeardley Love’s Death Murder or Accident?

Yeardley Love, a 24-year-old lacrosse player at the University of Virginia (UVA) was killed in May 2010. And, her ex-boyfriend, George Huguely V is currently on trial for her murder. Defendant Huguely admits to  “kicking in” Love’s locked bedroom door, “shook her and her head repeatedly hit the wall” and left her in a pool of blood. He even dumped her laptop into the trash. Why? maybe, so, she couldn’t reach for help or maybe, because, it contained his threatening emails?

Yet, the defense has claimed no murder has occurred as Love’s death “was not intended, but an accident with a tragic outcome”.

What? An accident? He got drunk, kicked down her door and attacked her as she slept, just before 2:15 am on May 3, 2010.

Also, the defense has claimed that Love’s death was due to her “irregular heartbeat” caused by her taking prescription drugs and alcohol.

What? Here we go again, blame the victim.

What next? She provoked him because she dumped him? She invited him over? She led him on? He was just trying to get her attention by shaking her? Utter nonsense.

As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I’ve heard many excuses, but, there is never an excuse for violence in a relationship.If the defendant had been a stranger rather than Love’s ex-boyfriend, would we even be asking these questions? But, for some reason, when it comes to domestic violence relationships, the victim is on trial and, in this case, for her alleged drinking, taking medications and an irregular heartbeat.

But, the prosecution calls it first degree murder. Drunken rage, locked door, ex-boyfriend, broken off relationship, threatening emails and texts to Love, and allegedly, 2 prior domestic violence assaults on Love. One, broken up by Chapel Hill lacrosse players and the other, when the defendant hit Love while drunk, the incident which reportedly ended their relationship. Her death was no accident, the prosecution will claim.

Consider Love’s injuries: blunt force trauma to the head, large contusion to the right side of her face, right eye swollen shut, facial bruising, abrasion to her chin and face and, the large pool of blood she was found in. Signs of an irregular heart beat? Or, even, injuries caused by just hitting her head against the wall?

An accident, really, is that the defense? What about the felony-murder rule? If a death occurs in the commission of a felony (unlawful entry into a residence, for instance), than the defendant can be found guilty of murder (life in prison). No intent to kill (malice) is required.

But maybe, a jury that will be swayed by his mental state (“drunken rage” and rejected), possibly suggesting a lesser charge of a “heat of passion” manslaughter (10 years prison)? Or, will that divide a jury between murder and manslaughter or even not guilty? Yet, if drunk drivers are convicted everyday of murder when they drink and kill, is there a different standard when you’re in an intimate relationship?

Domestic violence is not just a crime that occurs in troubled marriages, or even in relationships occurring after college nor is it limited to certain races, genders, ages, or even economic levels. Whether the crime is called “dating violence” or “intimate partner violence”, it is still domestic violence, a potentially deadly crime. According to the US Department of Justice,  “every day in the U.S., three women are murdered by their intimate partners. Eighty-five percent of intimate partner violence (IPV) is perpetrated against women — overwhelmingly against women who are between the ages of 20 and 24”, the ages of many women in college. (aolnews.com, 5/10/2010)

Yet, domestic violence is a reality and denial of domestic violence is also a reality on many college campuses and among college students, administrators, and apparently, even, the UVA police chief, too. In the days after Love’s killing, the police chief demonstrated a lack of understanding of domestic violence when he reportedly released a letter advising students to “lock their doors” and to “walk home with a friend”. What? Love wasn’t killed by a stranger. Domestic violence isn’t a crime perpetrated by a stranger. How would these warnings have helped Love or help anyone subjected to violence in their relationship?

Maybe, there were warning signs? The defendant reportedly has a 2007 alcohol possession charge and a 2009 public drunkenness with resisting arrest requiring a taser to subdue him. He received a 60 day suspended sentence and was placed on six months probation? Yet, the defendant failed to disclose either incident to UVA.

Domestic violence isn’t about love, it’s about power and control. And, hopefully, Ms. Love’s death is a wake up call for all universities to step up and ensure that campuses and students are safe and that domestic violence is not allowed and will not be tolerated.

Simply my opinion, what say you?

(Update 8/31/2012: Huguely sentenced to 23 years in prison. Defense argued for 14 years and prosecution argued for 25 years. Love’s parents have filed civil suits against UVA and Huguely for Love’s death. Apparently, prior to Love’s murder, Huguely was reported to UVA for beating up a lacrosse player.)

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