Virginia lacrosse murder trial goes to jury

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:16pm EST

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (Reuters) - Jurors began deliberating on Wednesday to decide whether a former University of Virginia lacrosse player killed his ex-girlfriend in a drunken rage or if her 2010 death was accidental.

Prosecutors accused George Huguely V, 24, of first-degree murder, saying he walked into 22-year-old Yeardley Love's apartment while she was asleep, kicked in her bedroom door and slammed her head against the wall.

Prosecution expert witnesses said Love, from Cockeysville, Maryland, died about two hours later from blunt force trauma to the head.

Huguely and Love were both seniors and members of the university's nationally ranked men's and women's lacrosse teams at the time.

The trial, now in its third week, has drawn national media attention to the quiet college town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Attorneys delivered closing arguments on Saturday, and the court proceedings resumed on Wednesday for scheduling reasons.

Defense attorneys argued prosecutors failed to prove Huguely intended to kill Love and suggested instead she suffocated in her bloody pillow.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Francis Lawrence acknowledged Huguely "played a role" in Love's death.

The defense said Huguely had visited Love in an attempt to patch up their relationship and was intoxicated, loud and clumsy the night of her death. Huguely told police he may have shaken Love "a little bit" but said she hit her own head against the wall.

Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is also charged with robbery, burglary at night, breaking and entering, grand larceny and murder during a robbery. He did not testify during the trial.

Jurors have the option of finding him guilty of a lesser charge such as manslaughter. If he is convicted of first-degree murder, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

(Reporting by Brandon Shulleeta; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Daniel Trotta)

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