Lawyers have filed a federal appeal for George Wesley Huguely V, a University of Virginia student convicted of killing his former girlfriend a decade ago in a high-profile trial that attracted national media attention."Although sensationalist press coverage falsely portrayed this case as a brutal, intentional killing, the actual evidence presented at trial told a very different story of what happened that night in question," begins the 65-page petition.The petition for a writ of habeas corpus – a civil challenge to a criminal conviction – was filed Wednesday by the Washington law firm of Consovoy McCarthy PLLC and Fairfax lawyer Jonathan Sheldon. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.Huguely, now 32, is serving a 23-year sentence for the second-degree murder of Yeardley Love, 22, a UVa lacrosse player who was found dead in her off-campus apartment on May 3, 2010, and a related grand larceny charge, which is not being challenged. Huguely claimed Love died accidentally after the two struggled after drinking heavily.That defense is raised again in his current appeal, which argues that "Mr. Huguely and Ms. Love had an altercation earlier that night in which they briefly wrestled on the floor of her bedroom, but the defense offered abundant evidence that Mr. Huguely’s actions were not the cause of Ms. Love’s death."An inmate at the State Farm Enterprise Unit now, Huguely’s prior state and federal appeals have been turned down. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.The new appeal argues that there was undisputed evidence during the 12-day trial in 2012 that Huguely went to Love’s apartment while "severely intoxicated after a day of heavy drinking" with the intention of only speaking with her. The appeal also states that it was undisputed that Love was alive when Huguely left her apartment.The petition also says that Love’s roommates called 911 because they thought she was suffering from alcohol poisoning, and that Huguely was "genuinely shocked and devastated when he later learned that Ms. Love had died."The defense also introduced evidence that Love, heavily intoxicated, fell to the floor from her bed and was accidentally smothered while sleeping face-down on a wet pillow.Huguely’s attorneys contend that two critical issues before the jury were whether he acted with malice – the difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter – and the cause of Love’s death."Yet, on both issues, the proceedings were plagued with problems that deprived Mr. Huguely of his constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial," contend his current lawyers.Among other things, Huguely’s petition alleges that the jury was confused about the definition of malice and consulted a dictionary during its deliberations, and that his trial lawyers prejudiced his defense through their deficient performance.The appeal alleges that Huguely’s sixth amendment right to a fair trial was violated by several factors, including the ineffective performance of his trial lawyers and the failure of the prosecution to disclose the Love family’s imminent $30 million civil suit against Huguely.
His lawyers contend that in prior appeals, courts had erred in rulings that were an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.
The Virginia Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.