George Huguely V’s legal options appear to be drying up after a court recently denied his petition for a certificate of appealability.
Huguely, a former University of Virginia lacrosse player, was found guilty in 2012 in Charlottesville Circuit Court of killing Yeardley Love, a fellow UVa student and lacrosse player and his on-again, off-again girlfriend. She was found dead in her apartment in May 2010, two weeks before she and Huguely were set to graduate.
In a recent order, U.S. District Judge Thomas T. Cullen denied both Huguely’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the certificate of appealability.
“The court further finds, for the reasons explained in its [December memorandum opinion], that petitioner has failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of his constitutional rights as required by [U.S. code].”
With these denials, Huguely is left with few options.
In the years since the trial, Huguely has attempted to appeal the case several times, and in 2015, his case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused his petition for certiorari on his claim that the Circuit Court denied his right to counsel by forcing him to proceed when one of his lawyers fell ill.
With direct methods of appeal exhausted, counsel for Huguely in April filed a writ of habeas corpus — a court order demanding that the director of the Virginia Department of Corrections deliver a prisoner to the court and show a valid reason for the person’s detention.
The writ, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleged a swath of Sixth Amendment violations. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a speedy and public trial.
Last month, the federal court held an evidentiary hearing at which one of the jurors from Huguely’s trial testified that she recalled a dictionary being consulted, though she could remember few details about the book other than that it was bound and had been held by a different juror.
Huguely’s counsel argued that if a dictionary was consulted for the definition of “malice,” as the juror alleged, then it could have unfairly prejudiced the jury.
However, counsel for the state presented contrary testimony from all the other jurors and surviving sheriff’s deputies, none of whom recalled a dictionary being read from or provided.
In an unusual move, Cullen ruled from the bench and denied Huguely’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. Now, with the petition for a certificate of appealability also denied, Huguely will have to turn his efforts to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
According to Todd Stone, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, habeas corpus remedies are rarely granted and Huguely’s odds of success going forward are even smaller.
“When they’re denied by a federal court, it’s exponentially more difficult to prevail on appeal,” Stone said. “Here, the court did not allow him to appeal, so his recourse is to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to allow him the chance to appeal by granting him a certificate of appealability. Realistically, it’s a Hail Mary with time running out on the clock.”
Huguely’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment on whether they plan to appeal to the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Huguely remains at the State Farm Enterprise Unit in Powhatan County and is currently set for release in 2030.