Defense expert: Yeardley Love's injuries not consistent with trauma

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Local,Virginia,Crime,Emily Babay

Yeardley Love's brain injuries are not consistent with having suffered head trauma, a neurosurgeon testified for the defense Saturday at the trial of George Huguely V.

The 24-year-old lacrosse player from Chevy Chase is accused of killing 22-year-old Love, his former girlfriend, in May 2010.

Whether Love died from blunt-force trauma to the head, as a medical examiner testified for the prosecution, is a central issue in the trial, which is ending its second week in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

Dr. Ronald Uscinski, a Chevy Chase neurosurgeon, said the injuries to Love's brain didn't appear to stem from trauma. Her brain stem -- which controls basic life functions -- was "intact," he said. In order to see damage there, he testified, "you've got to take a big hit" that would also cause damage to the structures surrounding it.

The exterior of Love's brain was "relatively undamaged," Uscinski said. And she didn't have any skull fractures or large hemorrhaging near the base of her brain. The scattered hemorrhages seen in Love's brain, he said, are "not what you see from trauma."

The testimony was a sharp contrast to interpretations of Love's injuries offered by prosecution witnesses. Dr. William Gormley, the medical examiner who performed Love's autopsy, said she died from a cardiac arrhythmia caused by blunt-force trauma to the head. Two neuropathologists testified that any hemorrhaging near the brain stem means the injuries are the result of trauma.

Another neuropathologist testified for the defense earlier in the week and said Love's injuries likely weren't from trauma. That expert, Dr. Jan Leestma, also said Love likely died from suffocation by breathing face-down into her bloody pillow.

Uscinski did not give -- and was not asked to give -- an opinion about how Love died.

The scope of his testimony was somewhat limited, after prosecutor Dave Chapman told Judge Edward Hogshire Saturday morning that Uscinski, Leestma and another doctor -- who had been expected to testify for the defense but was not called -- received emails from defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana that contained information about other witnesses' testimony at the trial.

Hogshire ruled that Uscinski could still testify, but could not discuss topics addressed in the emails, which included reperfusion -- injuries from blood returning after a lack of oxygen -- or CPR. In cross-examining prosecution witnesses, the defense had indicated it would suggest some of Love's injuries were caused by resuscitation efforts.

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Emily Babay

Digital News Editor
The Washington Examiner