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No hearing on Brady claim in Huguely case

Convicted murderer George Huguely V will not get an evidentiary hearing on his claim that the prosecution withheld evidence of a planned civil suit in violation of Brady v. Maryland, a Charlottesville Circuit Court said Aug. 15.

Huguely alleged that before trial, prosecutors were aware that the family of the victim, fellow U.Va. student Yeardley Love, had hired a lawyer and planned to file a civil suit for damages, and their personal lawyer was in contact with Commonwealth’s Attorney Warner Chapman.

Criminal defense attorneys representing Huguely asked for an evidentiary hearing to determine what the commonwealth knew about the pending civil action and when the commonwealth obtained information about the proposed civil case.

Denying the defense attorneys’ request for a hearing, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire said the commonwealth had no authority over private civil attorneys retained by the Love family, and it was “doubtful” that a lack of additional knowledge about the planned civil suit deprived Hugely of a fair trial.

Defense attorneys’ questioning “of the victim’s mother about plans to sue and about raising money for a foundation dedicated to the memory of her daughter and other related issues may have inspired some sympathy for Mr. Huguely or may have done just the opposite,” Hogshire said. Pre-trial publicity emphasized the Huguely family’s wealth and alleged ability to pay a substantial civil judgment.

In the end, defense attorneys did not exercise “reasonable diligence” in attempting to discover the status of the potential civil suit during the criminal prosecution, the court concluded.
–Deborah Elkins

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