Attorneys for convicted University of Virginia killer George Huguely V asked a court today for a new trial. One of their main arguments is that instructions given to jurors on the pivotal point of malice were "inadequate."
Huguely, 25, was convicted of second-degree murder and grand larceny in February 2012 for the beating death of ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love. He was sentenced to 23 years for murder, plus one concurrent year for the grand larceny conviction in August 2012 for stealing her computer.
His legal team is now arguing that there were a number of "constitutional and procedural errors" in the trial that they wish to appeal.
One of their main issues was the claim that the jurors were not properly instructed on the meaning of "malice," a pivotal term in the trial that separated second-degree murder from manslaughter.
"Mr. Huguely requested an additional sentence in the jury instruction clarifying that malice requires 'a wicked or corrupt motive' or an 'evil mind,'" Huguely's attorneys wrote in the filing, which was obtained by ABC News. "The circuit court rejected that request even though this Court and the Virginia Supreme Court have repeatedly included this language in the definition of malice."
During jury deliberations, the jurors asked for clarification on the definition of malice, which Huguely's lawyers argue shows that the court's instructions were "inadequate."
"The evidence at trial was insufficient to establish malice beyond a reasonable doubt, and Mr. Huguely therefore should not have been convicted of any offense more serious than manslaughter," the attorneys wrote.
Huguely was convicted of killing love Love, 22, in a drunken rage in May 2010 just weeks before she was to graduate from the University of Virginia. Both Huguely and Love were star lacrosse players on the university's elite teams.
Huguely faced six charges, including first-degree murder, in Love's death.
"Today's legal filing speaks for itself," Huguely's mother Marta Murphy told ABC News in a statement. "We have faith in our legal system and look forward to the appeals process ahead. George continues to have the love and support of his family."
The filing also claimed that Huguely was denied his right to counsel when the trial was forced to proceed despite one of his lead attorney's illness nine days into the trial, that the jury was not fair and impartial and that the $30 million civil lawsuit filed by the Love family after the trial should have been disclosed during the trial.
"Today, we filed a petition for appeal with the Virginia Court of Appeals in Richmond. That 56-page legal document details the constitutional and procedural errors in the trial court proceedings," Huguely's attorney Paul Clement told ABC News in a statement. "We are hopeful that the Court of Appeals will grant the petition and consider George's appeal on the merits."
The appeal was filed by Huguely's new legal team, which is made up of Paul Clement and Craig Cooley. Clement is a former U.S. Solicitor General and a legal professor at Georgetown University. Cooley was one of the defense attorneys for Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the Washington D.C. snipers.
Through a 12 day trial in February 2012, jurors listened to testimony from nearly 60 witnesses and saw a video of Huguely's police statement, graphic photos of Love's battered body, and read text and email correspondence between the two.
Though charged with first-degree murder, the judge gave jurors a menu of lesser charges they could choose from: second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense denied that Huguely was in Love's room the night of her death and was involved in an altercation with her. They differed on the severity of the encounter and whether Huguely was directly and intentionally responsible for Love's death.
George Huguely Wants New Trial in Death of Yeardley Love
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors painted a portrait of Huguely as a violent and enraged man who savagely beat Love in her bedroom and left her there to die. Prosecutors claimed that Love died from blunt force trauma to the head.
The defense depicted Huguely as a troubled young man whose problems with alcohol spiraled out of control. They described Huguely and Love's relationship as mutually tempestuous, with both of them jilting and betraying each other. They maintained that Huguely went to Love's bedroom with the intention to talk to her and that, while things got heated and he pushed her around a bit, he did not do anything severe enough to kill her.
During deliberations, jurors had the option of looking at evidence from the trial again, including Huguely's video-taped statement to the police hours after Love's death. Huguely said he and Love had wrestled on the floor, but that he never struck her.
Before finding out Love was dead, Huguely told police in his video-taped statement that when he went to see his former girlfriend the night of her death he told her to "chill out" and "shook her a little."
"We were just going to talk," Huguely told the officer in the video. "It was not at all a good conversation."
Huguely's legal team has filed motions for a new trial twice before and been denied both times.
- Crime & Justice
- Politics & Government
- George Huguely