CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) — In her 9th grade essay, Yeardley Love wrote about what she would like to do in life: go to the University of Virginia, play lacrosse there, become a lawyer, and have close relationships. with her family.
Many of her dreams came true but ended abruptly and brutally when she was severely beaten by her boyfriend, the Love family’s lawyer told jurors Tuesday in the civil trial of the man convicted of her murder.
George Hughley V was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a 23-year prison sentence for Love’s murder. Yardley and Hughley both played lacrosse at California State University and were weeks away from graduation when Yardley was found dead in her off-campus apartment in 2010.
BUT wrongful death lawsuit filed by Love’s mother, Sharon Love is seeking civil liability for her daughter’s death. The lawsuit seeks $29.5 million in damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
When the civil trial began, Paul Beckman, the lawyer for the Love family, showed the jury happy photos of Love with her mother and sister. He described a kind, thoughtful, and caring young woman who played lacrosse, joined a sorority, and kept to a strict school schedule at Virginia State University while talking to her family nearly every day.
Beckman told jurors that Love and Hughley dated for two years, but they had a “difficult relationship” that was marred by Hughley’s excessive drinking. He said fellow students would testify to earlier episodes of violence when Hughley was drunk, including one that happened about a month or two before Yeardley was killed when North Carolina lacrosse-playing guests heard Love’s cry: “Help, I can’t breathe.” and entered Hughley’s bedroom to find Hughley with “hands on her neck”.
Beckman showed jurors graphic crime scene photographs showing Love lying dead on her bedroom floor, with her right eye gouged out, her face covered in blood, and marks on her shoulder and neck. Love’s mother and sister left the courtroom shortly before the pictures were shown and wept quietly during several other parts of the opening statements.
A forensic examination determined that Love died from blunt force trauma to the head.
“She died as a result of a severe and brutal beating,” Beckman said.
Hughley’s lawyer, Matthew Green, told jurors that Hughley admits to assaulting Love and that her family is entitled to damages in an amount to be determined by the jury. But he said the defense would argue that Hughley’s actions were not the “intentional and wanton” behavior required to award punitive damages. In fact, Greene said, Hughley had no intention of causing Love’s death.
Green urged jurors to focus on the roughly eight to 10 minutes that Hughley spent at Love’s apartment the night she was killed. He said that Hughley was a “party-goer” who began drinking immediately after the UFA men’s lacrosse team played their last game on May 1, 2010. 50 drinks, using a “conservative estimate,” Green said.
Love and Hughley exchanged angry “immature emails” the next day, but things were fixed by evening, and the video showed them holding hands while spending time with Hughley’s family at a bar, Green said. Then, around 11:45 p.m., a drunk Hughley entered Love’s apartment, where he kicked out her bedroom door.
During police questioning early the next morning, Hugheli said he only went to Love’s apartment to talk to her, but their argument quickly escalated into a fight. Huguely said that Love’s head hit the wall and they wrestled on the floor, but when he left, she only had a bloody nose. Two hours later, roommates found her dead.
Green said that Love’s visible injuries were limited to the right side of her face, which he says “corresponds to a single blow, a kind of fall, where her face hits the floor.”
Green said that when the police told Hughley that Love was dead, his videotaped interview shows “he just doesn’t believe it.”
“It is clear that he did not realize that a fatal event had occurred,” Greene said.
Greene said the jury in Hughley’s criminal trial dismissed the charge of first-degree murder and found him guilty of second-degree murder instead. He is halfway through his 23-year prison sentence.
“Justice has been served,” Greene said.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012 but was later voluntarily dismissed and then re-filed in 2018.