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Appeal over dictionary use denied in UVa lacrosse slaying

FALLS CHURCH (AP) A federal judge has rejected an appeal from a former University of Virginia lacrosse player that his 2012 murder conviction should be tossed out because of a claim the jury improperly consulted a dictionary.

George Huguely V is serving a 25-year sentence for the 2010 slaying of Yeardley Love, who was herself a lacrosse player at U.Va. and was two weeks away from graduation when she was killed.

Huguely has filed multiple unsuccessful appeals. But in a ruling in December, U.S. District Judge Thomas Cullen in Roanoke opened up a narrow window for Huguely and ordered an evidentiary hearing to be held to determine whether the jury improperly used a dictionary to look up the definition of “malice.”

A finding of malice was necessary to convict Huguely of murder, and his appellate attorneys argued that using a dictionary would be equivalent to reviewing inadmissible evidence; jury instructions already contained a detailed legal definition of malice that should have guided the jury’s discussions.

At a Feb. 19 virtual hearing, Cullen dismissed the appeal and said the juror’s claim that a dictionary was used was outweighed by testimony of 26 other witnesses to the contrary, according to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office, which argued to uphold the conviction.

In court papers, Cullen had previously noted that the juror’s claims about use of a dictionary were inconsistent, and that the dictionary was alternately described as a single sheet of paper, a collection of papers and a hardbound book.

Attorneys for Huguely indicated to the judge at the conclusion of the hearing that they plan to appeal. Jon Sheldon, one of Huguely’s attorneys, declined to comment after the hearing.

The jury convicted Huguely, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, of second-degree murder at a high-profile trial in 2012. It rejected a first-degree murder conviction that could have resulted in a life sentence.

-MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press

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