After a two-week trial and roughly nine hours of deliberation, a jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, found former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V guilty of second-degree murder in the brutal beating death his onetime girlfriend and fellow Virginia student, 22-year-old Yeardley Love. The jury then recommended 24-year-old Huguely of Chevy Chase, Maryland* serve 25 years in prison plus one for grand larceny, for stealing Love's computer. A formal sentencing will follow in April, in which the Circuit Judge will not be bound by the jury's recommendation.
As the Washington Post points out, the verdict represents a perfect split between the prosecutor's attempt at a first-degree murder conviction, and the defense's desire to lessen the charge to manslaughter.
The case drew national attention in May 2010, in part because Huguely comes from a wealthy Maryland family and Love was an attractive, talented young woman, both of them standout lacrosse players. The Duke lacrosse "scandal" had broke only four years earlier and lacrosse players were being stereotyped as partying elitists, part of a "gated culture." (That debate persists.)
It was never disputed that Huguely was with Love the night she was killed. Huguely, who broke Love's door down after he had been drinking, admitted that "he had shaken Love, grabbed her by the neck and wrestled her to the floor after she refused to talk with him. He said she hit her head against a wall."
The Virginia medical examiner determined that Love died of blunt-force trauma to her head. Her family released a statement after the jury returned its recommendation:
"We dread looking back on the events of May 3, 2010 and pray for the strength to get through each day.
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 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."
Sharon & Lexie Love
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Chevy Chase was in Virginia. It is in Maryland.