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Judge grants hearing for appeal of George Huguely, former U.Va. student convicted in murder of Yeardley Love

The hearing will determine whether the jury consulted a dictionary in a way that would have prejudiced them against Huguely during the 2010 hearing

Huguely argues that his right to an impartial jury was harmed when a juror asked for a dictionary to resolve confusion over the world “malice.”
Huguely argues that his right to an impartial jury was harmed when a juror asked for a dictionary to resolve confusion over the world “malice.”

A evidentiary hearing will be held for one claim by George Huguely, a former University student convicted of killing his then-girlfriend and fellow University student, Yeardley Love, in May 2010. 

Huguely, who was found guilty of the second degree murder of Love, a former University lacrosse player, is currently serving a 23-year sentence. 

Huguely has attempted multiple appeals of the conviction — the most recent filed in federal court in Richmond in April 2020, which was then transferred to the U.S Western District of Virginia. While the Attorney General’s office sent a motion pushing for dismissal of the claims, Judge Thomas T. Cullen dismissed all but one of them in a 65-page ruling Dec. 21. 

Huguely argues that his right to an impartial jury was harmed when a juror asked for a dictionary to resolve confusion over the world “malice.” 

“Huguely’s claim that the jury consulted a dictionary during its deliberations is the exception,” Cullen said in the ruling. “As explained below, the state court’s resolution of that claim was unreasonable determination of the facts before it.”

Cullen said that a hearing would be held to determine whether the jury consulted a dictionary in a way that would prejudice them against Huguely during the hearing, and if so, whether that biased their decision.  

“The legal theory behind the argument is sound.” Cullen wrote. “External influences on the jury that prejudice the defendant violate the Sixth Amendment and invalidate a jury verdict. It follows that, if the jurors utilized a dictionary that provided a definition materially different from the relevant instructions, Huguely’s conviction must likely be overturned.” 

This contradicts the lower court’s findings, which ruled that because only one of 12 jurors had remembered anything about a dictionary, Huguely had not proved anything to have happened. 

“[Huguely] must [at the hearing] not only show that the judge consulted a dictionary regarding the meaning of ‘malice,’ a threshold factor hurdle that the evidence presented to date does not establish by clear and convincing evidence, but also that the definition they consulted prejudiced him,” Cullen wrote. 

Cullen said he will delay final judgment on the claim until after the hearing, which will be conducted “in the near future.” 

No court date for the hearing has been set yet, but court records show that a conference call has been scheduled with all of the parties for Jan. 8.

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