University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely is charged with first-degree murder for the death of female lacrosse player Yeardley Love. If prosecutors add an "aggravating circumstance," the charge could carry the possibility of the death penalty, which exists in Virginia but is rarely carried out. It is still very early in the case, but it's not too soon to ask: If convicted, will Huguely face execution?
Considering how quickly a first-degree murder charge was filed, the investigation suggests police and prosecutors have a lot of evidence. Huguely was arrested and charged on the same day Love's body was found. Often times, a suspect is held for a few days before being charged. And sometimes the most serious charge -- in this case, first-degree murder -- comes later as the investigation unfolds.
Not so for 22-year-old George Huguely.
Of course, just because charges were brought at such a rapid pace doesn't make Huguely guilty. Echoing that point, his attorney says this isn't an open-and-shut case, claiming Love's death was "an accident with a tragic outcome." This could be the truth or just a ploy to raise questions in the minds of potential jurors who may not be willing to put someone to death over a "tragic accident."
There's also the suspect's race and class. The Washington Examiner reports the Huguely's family is prominent in its community of Chevy Chase, Maryland -- that the family "helped build the area" it's from. A jury may think twice about imposing the death penalty on someone from such a respected family.
Guilty or not, Huguely may not look like the street thug commonly associated with murder. Wearing a clean haircut and tailored suit, he will appear respectable in court. Will a jury vote to execute "such a nice looking boy?"
Then again, this could all be moot if the case goes the way of the high-profile Chelsea King murder in Southern California. John Gardner, a former sex offender, pleaded guilty to killing King and another girl in a deal that spared him the death penalty. Instead, he'll spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. The parents of the victims agreed to the deal so they could avoid a painful trial.
It's still early for George Huguely, but the road he takes -- and those who defend and prosecute him -- could ultimately decide how long he lives on this earth.