CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Charlottesville-area man accused of killing University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham is scheduled to stand trial on first-degree murder and other charges June 29.
An Albemarle County judge set the trial date during Jesse L. Matthew Jr.’s appearance in court Wednesday morning. It was Matthew’s first time before a judge since new charges in the case were announced last week. The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.
Circuit Court Judge Cheryl V. Higgins officially appointed James L. Camblos III to represent Matthew after Matthew told Higgins that he did not have “any more money.” Camblos, a former top prosecutor in the county, has represented Matthew since his arrest in late September.
Camblos asked for — and was granted — the appointment of co-counsel, citing the “voluminous” evidence involved in the case. Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford said there would be 52 witnesses for the prosecution.
Authorities say Matthew abducted Graham in the early morning of Sept. 13. He allegedly walked with her through a downtown mall and then made off with her after witnesses saw them together outside a Charlottesville restaurant.
Matthew, 33, became the subject of a nationwide manhunt after authorities determined that he was the last person seen with the 18-year-old Fairfax County resident. He was arrested in Texas and charged with abduction with intent to defile, indicating that police believed that Matthew had planned to sexually assault Graham.
Graham’s body was found in October on an abandoned property about 12 miles from campus, and the state’s chief medical examiner’s office determined that the cause of death was “homicidal violence.”
Albemarle officials announced Feb. 10 that Matthew had been charged with first-degree murder. They have not indicated what evidence they have in the case.
Pretrial motions are scheduled for March 4, and Camblos asked that the hearing take place in the judge’s chambers. “We are going to have a big enough issue with a fair trial,” given the extensive media attention the case has received, he said.
At the hearing Wednesday, Matthew appeared in a gray jumpsuit on a video feed from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Members of Matthew’s family also attended the hearing.
After the hearing, Camblos said he was pleased that the judge appointed co-counsel in the case. “It’s a major case. I needed some help. It’s too much for one lawyer,” Camblos said. He said that Matthew’s family did not want to comment at this time but that “the family is doing okay under the circumstances.”
Matthew also faces sexual-assault charges in Fairfax County. Authorities say DNA evidence connects him to a 2005 attack in which a woman was sexually assaulted, grievously wounded and left for dead. Fairfax officials have said that they discovered Matthew’s DNA under one of the woman’s fingernails.
Matthew has pleaded not guilty in the Fairfax case, and his trial in that case is scheduled to begin June 8.
Jouvenal reported from Washington.