Judge Denies Gag Order, Approves DNA Funding in Matthew Case

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Fairfax Circuit Court Fairfax Circuit Court
Jesse Matthew's Fairfax County booking photo Jesse Matthew's Fairfax County booking photo
Suspect sketch from 2005 sexual assault case Suspect sketch from 2005 sexual assault case

The Charlottesville man charged with abducting University of Virginia student Hannah Graham was back in court Friday for a second straight day on an attempted murder charge in Fairfax.

A pretrial motions hearing was held in Fairfax Circuit Court Friday for 33-year-old Jesse Matthew. He faces charges of attempted capital murder, abduction with the intent to defile, and sexual penetration with an object against the victim's will in connection with a 2005 alleged sexual assault.

Friday, Judge David Schell took up three defense motions: a gag order, funding for a defense DNA specialist and standard discovery procedures.

The request for a gag order in the case was denied. Matthews' lawyer, public defender Dawn Butorac, had asked for the order to prevent statements that might prejudice a jury pool against Matthew. The judge sided with Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, who said a gag order is unnecessary and that he is always careful to respect defendant's fair trial rights.

"We oppose the gag order because I think it is important for the public to have access to information about how the process works. I think it promotes confidence in the courts. I'm actually proud of our court system," Morrogh stated.

The judge approved $2,000 for a defense DNA expert. The defense said the DNA found under the victim's fingernail is the only evidence prosecutors have to link Matthew to the crime. Butorac said the lab results linking their client to the crime are three inches thick and complicated to read.

The judge also sealed files in the case and also approved a modified discovery order, telling prosecutors to give evidence to the defense by January 23.

Butorac also said they might not be ready for the March trial. "I think that's just an honest statement she made to the court that she obviously has a lot of work to do, as we all do. And the judge, if she decides to make a motion, I'm sure the judge will give it mature consideration and do what he thinks is right," Morrogh said.

On Thursday, Judge Schell denied a request from some Northern Virginia media outlets to have cameras in the courtroom for Friday's hearing and others in the future.

Matthew's father was at Friday's hearing and met with his son in jail. On his way out, he would only say it was good to see his son.

Matthew will go to trial in Fairfax in March. He has been ordered to stay at the Fairfax Adult Detention Center until trial.

Matthew is scheduled to be in Albemarle County General District Court on March 23 for a reckless driving charge. He picked that up while investigators were following him during the investigation of Hannah Graham's abduction.

He is due in Charlottesville General District Court on the abduction charge on March 26.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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