Attorneys representing convicted murderer George W. Huguely V are asking the Court of Appeals of Virginia to grant him a new trial, arguing that the former University of Virginia lacrosse player was denied his constitutional right to be represented by an attorney of his choosing, that the evidence didn't support his conviction and citing what they call procedural errors.
Washington-based attorney Paul D. Clement and attorney Craig S. Cooley, of Richmond, filed a 57-page petition for appeal Tuesday. The document listed Clement and Cooley, not local attorneys Francis McQ. Lawrence and Rhonda Quagliana, as Huguely's defense counsel.
They argued that Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire should have postponed argument while Quagliana was absent from court with the stomach flu.
"A court's denial of the defendant's right to be represented by his counsel of choice is a structural error that requires reversal without any additional showing of evidence," the petition reads.
"That is sort of a novel issue," local defense attorney Scott Goodman said when asked to comment for this story. "It may very well be an issue the court might entertain."
Lawrence and Quagliana objected to several of the court's rulings during jury selection. Hogshire denied their request to sequester jurors throughout t he duration of the three-week trial in order to shield them from the "daily barrage of media coverage."
The motion states that "the courtroom was packed with reporters from virtually every media outlet in the United States."
Hoghsire also denied a defense request to question jurors individually about potential prejudices against the defendant. Clement and Cooley raised these issues, as well, in their petition for a new trial.
"Worse yet, after initially allowing the defense to ask prospective jurors about whether they could impartially evaluate evidence that could be seen as 'blaming the victim,' and striking one prospective juror for cause based on his answer, the circuit court erroneously reversed course and barred further use of that plainly relevant question," the petition reads.
Jurors found Huguely, 25, guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of his ex-girlfriend, UVa women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love. After a day of heavy drinking, Huguely kicked down Love's door and got into a physical altercation with her that caused her death. A roommate found Love's body in her 14th Street Northwest apartment early May 3, 2010. She and Huguely were just weeks away from graduation.
Huguely also was convicted of grand larceny. In August, Hogshire sentenced him to 23 years in prison for the crimes.
In April, Love's mother, Sharon Love, filed a $30-million wrongful death lawsuit against Huguely. She filed a second $30 million suit in May naming the Commonwealth of Virginia, head men’s lacrosse coach Dom Starsia, associate coach Marc van Arsdale and UVa Athletics Director Craig Littlepage as defendants.
At a post-trial motions hearing, Sharon Love's civil attorney, Mahlon "Bud" Funk, referenced a longstanding relationship with Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman.
In the appeal filed Tuesday, the attorneys argued that Chapman broke the law by not telling the defense during trial that a civil suit was in the works. The attorneys say Hogshire erred when he denied the defense's request for a hearing on the matter.
Clement and Cooley also reasserted the defense's earlier argument that jurors were not given a sufficient definition of "malice." Prior to deliberations, Lawrence and Quagliana asked that jurors be told malice requires "a wicked or corrupt motive" or an "evil mind." Hogshire denied the motion.
The newly filed petition further asserts that Chapman did not prove Huguely was responsible for second-degree murder instead of manslaughter.
Jury forewoman Serena Zimmerman said Tuesday that she felt jurors were thorough and thoughtful in their deliberations.
"I feel like our job is done. We fulfilled our duty to the best of our ability," she said.
Huguely's mother, Marta Murphy, said in a statement that his family has faith in the legal system and looks forward to the appeals process ahead, the Associated Press reported.
Chapman has 30 days to respond, Goodman said. If the Court of Appeals overrules Hogshire on any of the issues, Huguely will be granted a new trial, he added.
Chapman said he has yet to receive a copy of the petition.
Huguely is incarcerated at Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Oakwood.
Calls to Lawrence, Quagliana, Cooley and Clement were not returned. A UVa official said the university does not comment on pending litigation.