When Will Jesse Matthew's Trial For The Death Of Hannah Graham Take Place?
The investigation and prosecution for the case of Hannah Graham, the 18-year-old University of Virginia student who went missing in September 2014, has been drawn-out since the beginning. When Graham was reported missing in September, national headlines appeared almost every day detailing the search to find her, alive or dead. The whole country was constantly updated on any new findings in the case, especially when Graham's remains were found in October. A suspect in Graham's murder was only indicted in February 2015, five months after her disappearance, and now the story gets even more complicated. Now that Jesse Matthew Jr., 33, the main suspect in Graham's murder, has been charged Tuesday with capital murder, he could face the death penalty.
What makes capital murder different from first-degree murder, the original charge against Matthew? According to Virginia statute, an offender is eligible for capital murder if the crime was committed in the course of another felony. If convicted of a capital crime, an offender is then eligible for execution. In the Hannah Graham case, prosecutors allege that the murder was committed during an abduction. Matthew also faces a charge for abduction with intent to defile. Prosecutors told NBC News that if the case goes to trial, they will seek the death penalty for Matthew.
Matthew will not face a trial for the murder charges for at least six weeks, as the hearing to set a trial date is not until June 25. However, he will go to trial June 8 for a different case, a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax County. His trial for Graham's death was originally scheduled to take place on June 29, but the defense requested more time to examine DNA evidence.
Prosecutors claim Matthew is also connected to the murder of Morgan Harrington, whose parents attended the hearing on Tuesday. Matthew's DNA was allegedly found on Harrington's body after a stain on her shirt matched DNA evidence from the 2005 sexual assault for which he faces trial this June. Charges have not been filed against Matthew in Harrington's death.
The charge of capital murder in the Graham case could place pressure on the defense to pursue a plea deal. The prosecution would also have motivation to take a plea deal because of the extensive cost of pursuing a capital trial to the fullest extent. If Matthew does go to trial, the jury also has the option to convict him of first-degree murder but not capital murder, if they see fit.
Image: ABC News