Virginia man charged in students' deaths waives right to speedy trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2015 5:35 PM

By Gary Robertson

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Reuters) - A Virginia man charged with abducting and killing university student Hannah Graham waived his right to a speedy trial on Wednesday in a second murder case involving a female student.

"Yes, ma’am,” the suspect, Jesse Matthew Jr., 33, said when Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins questioned him about waiving his rights.

Matthew, who was shackled and dressed in gray prison garb, is scheduled to be tried starting Oct. 24, 2016, in the abduction and death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20. He faces first-degree murder and abduction charges in Harrington’s death.

Harrington went missing in October 2009 after a concert in Charlottesville. Her remains were found on an area farm.

Matthew also has been charged with capital murder and abduction in the death of Graham, a University of Virginia sophomore who went missing in September 2014. Searchers found her body in a remote area of Albemarle County about five weeks later.

Graham's disappearance and death has generated national headlines and television documentaries. That trial is set to begin July 5, 2016. Matthew could face the death sentence if convicted.

Matthew is due to be sentenced on Friday in Fairfax County, Virginia, in a separate sexual assault case stemming from a 2005 attack.

In the Graham case, Higgins granted a defense request to file motions under seal and not to unseal them before they were heard in court.

Defense attorney Doug Ramseur said the ruling would protect the contents of search warrants and subpoenas. He said a number of sensitive documents discussed in court were appearing on the Internet within minutes.

Higgins also ruled for the defense in finding that another judge would hear search warrant suppression motions on warrants that she issued.

She denied defense motions to appoint an expert who would examine Matthew’s potential for violence in the future.

Higgins denied a defense request to produce a list of grand jurors for the past four years. The defense wanted to determine if there had been racial bias in naming jurors. Matthew is black.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech)