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Charlottesville Preps For Overcrowded Courtroom For Huguely Trial

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The front of Charlottesville Circuit Court, which will be flooded with reporters and other members of the media this week as the trial of George Huguely begins.
  The front of Charlottesville Circuit Court, which will be flooded with reporters and other members of the media this week as the trial of George Huguely begins.  

Jury selection begins today in the trial of George Huguely, the former University of Virginia lacrosse player from Chevy Chase, Md. who's accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love. and the city of Charlottesville, Va. is bracing for a huge influx of reporters as the trial gets underway.

Nine satellite trucks rolled into down just for the preliminary hearing last year, and 17 trucks and 150-175 reporters are expected for the trial, according to Ric Barrick, Charlottesville's communications director.

"Part of that crowd will include NBC, CBS and ABC, the Morning Show, 20/20, Dateline, several court TV shows as well as ESPN," Barrick says. 

There isn't enough room for all those reporters along with family and friends of the defendant and his alleged victim.

"It's a relatively small courtroom, and the defense and the prosecution have asked for at least three rows, which leaves us with about 20-30 media and about 50 public seats," Barrick says. 

To deal with the overflow, the city has set up a satellite feed to a nearby building, where reporters and members of the public can watch the case on TV. Aside from that feed, no cameras will be allowed in the courtroom, and reporters will not be allowed to take cell phones or audio recorders inside. Planners will also try to shield the defendant from view as he enters the courtroom on day one.

"There's some concern about photographing the defendant in a way that jurors who haven't been seated yet might see on the evening news," Barrick says. "There is great interest by the media to get to see Mr. Huguely. He has not been photographed in public since he was incarcerated." 

Outside, Barrick says, traffic is likely to be a problem with reporters, lawyers, police, sheriff's deputies, and the public converging on Courthouse Square. 

"We're going to keep most of the roads open," he says. "We'll be closing 4th Street, but travel in that area is going to be slow and challenging." 

He adds that another street closing may be necessary when the trial comes to an end in about two weeks. 

"When the verdict is actually read, TV crews trying to do their live shots will need to take their cords over High Street, so we'll most likely close the street when we hear that a verdict has been reached," Barrick says. 

All of this is contained in a 15-page media plan issued by the city after consulting with Chesapeake, Va., where the D.C. sniper Lee Malvo was tried in 2003. When this trial ends, Charlottesville will be happy to share its media plan with other cities facing high profile trials, Barrick says. 


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