Jesse Matthew charged with capital murder

Court appoints new defense counsel, sets next hearing date

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Jesse Matthew will appear in court again June 25 at a hearing to set trial dates. 

Charges against Jesse Matthew in the case of the Commonwealth of Virginia v. Jesse Matthew were upgraded to capital murder Tuesday afternoon.

Matthew is charged with the abduction and subsequent murder of second-year College student Hannah Graham. The Albemarle County Circuit Court held the hearing Tuesday to appoint new counsel to the defense and set a next hearing date.

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford requested more severe charges against Matthew after a new DNA analysis received official certification. Lunsford said the evidence provided through the analysis was compelling enough to convince her and other officers involved in the case capital charges were appropriate.

In light of the capital charges the Court requested that Matthew be appointed defense counsel with expertise in death penalty litigation.

Virginia Capital Defender Douglas Ramseur and Michael Hemenway, a private attorney in Charlottesville, will replace Jim Hingeley and Jim Camblos, Matthew’s current counsel, on all charges. Presiding Judge Cheryl Higgins said she would prefer the defense counsel experienced in capital charges.

Ramseur initially requested that Camblos remain on the defense, citing a “deep relationship and trust” between Camblos and Matthew.

Before Camblos and Hingeley were replaced Lunsford said while she doesn’t usually get involved in decisions about counsel, “four attorneys is confusing and laborious.”

The charges prior to the request, including abduction with intent to defile, will still be in place.

“If the matter goes to trial, prosecution will seek the death penalty,” Lunsford said.

A new hearing date was set for June 25 at 2 p.m. to hear any further motions, including a possible recusal motion against Higgins, and to set a date for trial.

Higgins identified herself as the parent of a second-year University student, noting this as a possible grounds for a motion to recuse herself as the judge presiding over the case, but said she is not aware of any interaction between her child and Graham, who went missing Sep. 13. If a recusal motion is filed a decision on the motion will be made at the June 25 court date.

Matthews’ hearing concerning a sexual assault case in Northern Virginia in 2005 will occur at a Fairfax County courthouse June 8.

Matthew has also been linked by DNA to the disappearance and death of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who disappeared Oct. 17, 2009 after leaving a concert at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Her body was found on an Albemarle County farm Jan. 26, 2010.

Harrington’s mother, Gil Harrington, was present at the hearing and said the capital murder charge speaks to the horrific nature of what happened.

“I really don’t know what the justification for changing the charge is, but yeah, some bad things happened, lives were lost, dreams broken,” Harrington said.

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