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Albemarle Co. Prosecutor: No Rush to Jesse Matthew Murder Trial

Posted: Updated: Jun 11, 2015 02:23 PM
Denise Lunsford Denise Lunsford
Courtroom sketch of Jesse Matthew leaving a Fairfax courtroom Courtroom sketch of Jesse Matthew leaving a Fairfax courtroom
Fairfax County Courthouse Fairfax County Courthouse
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Jesse Matthew will have a court hearing later this month to set a trial date on his capital murder charge for Hannah Graham's death.

Wednesday, Matthew was found guilty on three charges stemming from a separate incident in Fairfax. He entered Alford pleas on all charges in that case. An Alford plea is a form of a guilty plea where a defendant proclaims he is innocent of the crime, but admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh said Matthew entered the Alford plea without any plea agreement with prosecutors.

"It seems wasteful, kind of frustrating, but it's the nature of the system," said Albemarle Co. Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford.

The unexpected ending to the Fairfax trial won't change plans for Matthew's case in Albemarle County.

"We are proceeding with preparing for trial, the investigation, looking forward to scheduling the trial and all the motions hearing," the commonwealth's attorney said.

It's what happens after the trial that it could impact. "If he is convicted down here either by a jury trial or on a guilty plea, it will be received as evidence in his sentencing down here," Lunsford explained.

Matthew is facing capital murder for the death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

Lunsford will be the top prosecutor in the case, and she says all signs point to a trial happening next spring or early summer. "Capital cases are different. We will have a number of motions hearings in this case that you don't normally see in other cases. And that's one of the reasons it takes so long to get it to trial," she said.

The Democrat is balancing the Graham case, and many others, while trying to keep her job. The incumbent will be up against Republican Robert Tracci in the November elections.

"My job is to do my job, and if I do my job, I think that speaks for itself. If I spend my time trying to keep my job, then I neglect what's happening here, and that's absolutely not appropriate," said Lunsford.

Matthew is scheduled for a hearing in Albemarle County Circuit Court on June 25, which will set a trial date and decide if the judge assigned to the case has a conflict of interest in the case.

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