Huguely Trial Day 7: DNA Evidence Presented, Medical Examiner Testifies
Day seven of the George Huguely murder trial began Tuesday morning with the prosecution continuing to lay out its case with expert testimony. Huguely is accused of murder in the 2010 death of his ex-girlfriend, UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
Details emerged in court Tuesday about DNA evidence tested in the investigation into Love's death. Day seven of the Huguely trial focused on medical testimony presented by the prosecution.
Tuesday in court, a forensic scientist described evidence collected from items seized in the investigation. Huguely's leg hair was found in Love's broken bedroom door. Huguely's blood was found under Love's fingernail, and Huguely had her DNA under his. A stain on the wall of Love's bedroom was not blood. And Huguely's blood was mixed with another's on a pair of his shorts. That second sample was too small to be tested.
Medical Examiner Doctor William Gormley said Love had a blood alcohol content of 0.14, and 0.05 milligrams per liter of an amphetamine in her system. Gormley said neither could have caused her death. He says Love suffered from a cardiac arrhythmia caused by blunt force trauma to the head.
Experts also testified Tuesday that Love could have been saved if she had had help sooner.
Lawyers spent more than five hours talking about injuries to Love's brain. There's no doubt it was bruised, but how that happened is still up for debate.
Tuesday's testimony centered on Love's brain. Doctor Christine Fuller used a model brain and actual autopsy photographs to demonstrate her findings. She testified that Love's brain had three areas of contusions: the right side, left side and brain stem. Fuller said it was caused by blunt force trauma and explained that CPR efforts on Love could not have caused the contusions.
But on cross-examination Huguely's defense team attacked Fuller's credibility. Bringing to light that Love had no skull fractures and she had no shoulder or torso damage. Dr. Fuller testified she could not specify the source of the blunt force trauma, meaning it could have been a wall, the floor, or something else.
Doctor Marie-Beatriz Lopes also reiterated Fuller's testimony but added that she thought Love lived at least two hours after her injuries inside her 14th Street apartment.
In court, Huguely sat expressionless as he saw multiple pictures of his ex-girlfriend's dissected brain shown on a large television screen. Love's family, particularly her sister Lexie, was again emotional as the technical medical testimony unfolded.
Dr. Christine Fuller
Dr. Christine Fuller, a neuropathologist from Virginia Commonwealth University, took the stand just after the jury was seated after 9:00 a.m. She says the Medical Examiner brought her in as an expert to examine Love's brain. Fuller described a picture of Love's brain and explained the brain's anatomy. She demonstrated a brain dissection using a plastic model. Fuller said she did not notice any aneurysms of noticeable hemorrhages solely by examining the outside of the brain, but upon further examination, she saw multiple lesions, including three major hemorrhage areas. She explained "lesions" is a generic term that covers any abnormality.
Fuller explained Love's brain contusion under the left temporal lobe, saying that happens when the brain separates from the skull during an accelerated state then slams back into it at deceleration. Typically, a contusion happens following a blunt force, which can happen from a fall depending on the height involved, or if "punched severely" especially if hunched up against a wall or potentially the floor. Fuller then described a second contusion on the opposite side of the brain. She says the two injuries could indicate a rotational injury with a significant amount of torque.
Fuller then described the bleeding and hemorrhaging in the brain stem. She says blood was pooling in natural empty areas where spinal fluid pools. She testified that the bleeding in the area of the brain stem affect "vital functions," stating damage to axons in that area can cause death due to cardiac arrest or respiratory issues. Fuller stated death "could be immediate or take a couple hours." She continued saying enough "whip" acceleration then deceleration has to occur to cause the damage seen in Love's blood vessels.
Fuller went on a lengthy explanation of what happens if a person goes into cardiac arrest and stops breathing for enough time to deprive oxygen to the brain.
If CPR or extraordinary measures are taken to revive the person, the reintroduction of blood flow to the brain (reperfusion) can cause swelling, hemorrhaging and enough destruction to cause the person to become brain dead. However, Fuller stated that a brain that goes through that process presents different hemorrhaging and color than Love's brain did. In addition, she noted that she had never in her career heard or seen CPR alone cause reperfusion.
Fuller said the three main hemorrhages could not be caused by CPR, only blunt force trauma to the head.
The court took a short recess just after 11:00 a.m. before the defense began cross-examination.
Fuller then reviewed the external injuries to Love she saw from photographs. The defense questioned Fuller about the lack of injuries to Love's torso and how it relates to the cause of her brain injuries. Fuller reconfirmed it would have taken Love approximately two hours to die. When the defense team asked the doctor if she could testify how much acceleration is needed to cause a brain hemorrhage, she said no.
Dr. Marie-Beatriz Lopes
University of Virginia brain expert, Dr. Marie-Beatriz Lopes then took the stand. She had access to one more test on Love's brain that could shed light on her time of death.
Lopes testified that Love's brain was heavier than an average brain of someone her age. It was also more red and swollen than it should have been. Much of her testimony reiterated that of Dr. Fuller.
She reconfirmed that from tests and what she observed Love's death had to have occurred in at least two hours and no more than six. Lopes also testified that to her knowledge, she has not heard of CPR causing hemorrhages like those found in Love's brain.
After the court took a recess for lunch, Dr. Lopes took the stand again. She reaffirmed that lesions in Love's brain were a result of trauma, because of the location of contusions and hemorrhage on the brain stem.
Prosecutor Dave Chapman asked Lopes about citation of study made in her examiner's report. The study explained two cases where there were lesions to a patient's brain due to CPR. Lopes emphasized that the patients in these incidents were alive and survived CPR.
Huguely's defense team asked Lopes about the nature of a blunt force trauma injury, in terms of its varying degrees of severity. Lopes told defense she does not know how much force was needed to cause Love's injuries. She also confirmed that she did not see autopsy photos or photos of the crime scene – Love's bedroom – before performing her exam.
When Huguely's defense team stated Love's two-hour timeframe of death was a "potential, not fixed marker in time," Lopes emphasized that it was at least two hours. She then confirmed that she could offer no opinion on exact time of death or levels of consciousness and awareness in period prior to death.
Lopes ended her testimony by explaining that as a medical doctor, she is supposed to "read facts, analyze them, and offer her opinion." She stated that she agreed with Dr. Fuller's opinion after the exams.
Dr. William Gormley
Medical Examiner William Gormley, who first took the stand in day six of the Huguely trial, went back on stand.
Gormley testified about Love's toxicology report. He stated that the concentration of Adderall found in Love's system was 0.05 mg/L, which is in the typical "therapeutic range." Gormley also testified that there was a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .14 in Love's system. He then stated that to be a cause of death, BAC usually has to be at least .40.
Gormley also testified about Love's neuropathology report. He identified hemorrhages in Love's brain, specifically citing an area of contusion on the cortex on right side of the brain and damage in the brain stem.
Gormley said the most significant cause of death is blunt force trauma to Love's head and brain injuries. He then spent some time explaining the difference between "cause of death" (an injury or disease that starts sequence leading to death) and a "mechanism of death." Gormley stated the mechanism for Love's death appears to be cardiac arrhythmia, and the cause of arrhythmia was blunt force trauma to the head.
Curt Harper, a forensic toxicologist, was next to take the witness stand. Harper said that Gormley had requested ethanol, drug abuse, and therapeutic drug testing. He reconfirmed the levels found in Love's body. Harper also testified that it takes Adderall concentrations of 0.20-0.50 in a person's system to cause death.
James Anthony Brown
James Anthony Brown, a forensic scientist, was next to take the witness stand. He explained that he studies "trace evidence" – items like hairs or fibers that can be transferred from one place to another. Brown tested a swab of matter from Love's bedroom wall for cosmetics ("something with flesh-tone pigment"), but said he did not find anything he could isolate as cosmetic.
Jennie Mouer, another forensic scientist, was next to take the witness stand. She processed Love's bedroom door - with black powder - from top to bottom for latent fingerprints, but found none "of value."
Mouer said she analyzed a Microsil lift from Love's door but only found ridges (fractions of prints) that were not "of value" in order to identify who they belong to. She also said she found no fingerprints on the Natural Light beer can found in Love's bedroom.
Mouer talked about the fingerprinting process, and cited two factors that can result in failure to recover prints – if someone's hands are wet or if an item doesn't have enough surface area to extract information.
Marjorie E. Harris
Marjorie E. Harris, a forensic scientist specializing in bloodstain pattern analysis, was next to take witness stand. Harris talked about the process in which she analyzes blood stains and explained various kinds such as passive bloodstains, spatter, wipe patterns, and swipe patterns.
Harris identified a photograph of bloodstains on Love's carpet. She cited two circular stains from individual drips coming from elevation straight down to carpet. She identified "swipe" stains on Love's bed spread and fitted sheet, that "show movement through lengthening and tapering of stain" in certain direction. She stated that there was also spatter on the bed skirt of Love's bed and a "directional" stain on her face.
In the cross-examination, Huguely's defense team was trying to cast what the bloodstains really meant. Harris confirmed she does not have knowledge of how Love's bed comforter was removed from bed or packaged. Harris was also asked about the nature of transfer stains on Love's bed.
The defense's cross-examination underlined what Harris could not conclude about the evidence, timing, distance, etc.
Angela Rainey, a DNA analyst for the Virginia Department of Forensic Sciences, was last to take the witness stand on day seven of the Huguely trial. She began her testimony describing how she performs DNA tests.
Rainey continued by explaining "loci" – a specific place on a strand of DNA. She stated that she uses the same loci for each DNA sample tested.
In order to develop DNA profiles which she used to test samples, Rainey said she first received "buccal swabs" - 2 cotton swabs with saliva from person's mouth - for Huguely. She used DNA from the swabs as a reference sample, and established a DNA profile for Huguely.
Rainey also confirmed she received a sample of Love's blood to use as a DNA reference and developed a DNA profile for Love.
Rainey obtained the following results from tests conducted for this case:
- Performed DNA test for blood found on Love's left fingernail clippings. Found Love's own DNA.
- Performed DNA test for blood found under Love's right fingernail clippings. Found Huguely's DNA.
- Performed DNA test for found on Love's underwear – depicted locations as "front middle" and "left hip area." Found Love's own DNA.
- Performed DNA test for blood from carpet near Love's desk. Found Love's DNA, but not Huguely's.
- Performed DNA test for Huguely's right fingernail scrapings (not blood). Found Love's DNA.
- Performed body fluid analysis for blue shirt taken from Huguely's apartment. No blood was found, and therefore, no DNA test was done.
- Performed body fluid analysis for red stain on white t-shirt taken from Huguely's living room. No blood was found, and therefore, no DNA test was done.
- Performed body fluid analysis for blue "golf" shirt taken from Huguely's living room. No blood was found, and therefore, no DNA test was done.
- Performed DNA test for blood found on back right leg of blue shorts taken from Huguely's bedroom. Found a DNA mixture – Huguely's DNA and foreign DNA that was too little of an amount to make any identification.
- Performed DNA test for hair and fiber taken from Love's bedroom door. Found Huguely's DNA.
- Performed body fluid analysis for towels with red stains found in Love's apartment. No blood was found.
- Performed DNA test for Natural Light beer can taken from trash can in Love's bathroom. No DNA found.
- Performed DNA test for two bloodstains on Love's laptop cover. Found Love's DNA, but not Huguely.
- Performed DNA test for multiple bloodstains on Love's bedspread. Found Love's DNA, but not Huguely.
- Performed DNA test for bloodstains on Love's sheets. Found Love's DNA, but not Huguely.
- Performed DNA test for wall stain swab from Love's bedroom. No blood found.
- Performed DNA test for bloodstains on Love's bed skirt. Found Love's DNA, but not Huguely.
- Performed body fluid analysis for black shirt taken from Love's bedroom on the floor by a hamper. No blood found.
- Performed body fluid analysis for brown flip-flops, t-shirt, and shorts Huguely was wearing after police took him to the station on May 3, 2010. No blood found.
- Performed DNA test for blood found on a shower curtain from Huguely's bathroom. Found DNA but it did not match Love or Huguely.
- Performed body fluid analysis for bath mat from Huguely's bathroom. No blood found
- Performed body fluid analysis for red-stained swabs from Huguely's bathtub. No blood found.
- Performed body fluid analysis for all samples - kitchen samples, paper towel, sink trap - taken from Huguely's neighboring apartment. No blood found.
During cross-examination, Rainey confirmed she can't say how or when foreign DNA got on his shorts.
Court adjourned at around 7:30 Tuesday evening. The commonwealth has called almost 40 witnesses to the stand so far. Testimonies are scheduled to resume at 9:00 Wednesday morning. They city says the case could go into the weekend.
Follow @NBC29Huguely on Twitter for updates from the courtroom throughout the day.