Jesse Matthew's Defense Requests Recusal of Albemarle Co. Judge

Posted: Updated: Jun 16, 2015 07:06 PM
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - The man accused of killing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham wants a different judge to preside over his Albemarle County trial.

Jesse Matthew, 33, is accused of abducting Graham from Charlottesville's Downtown Mall in September 2014 and killing her. Her body was found in a wooded area off of Old Lynchburg Road in southern Albemarle County. The commonwealth's attorney for the county has charged Matthew with capital murder, meaning he could face the death penalty.

The defense team for Matthew filed a motion asking for the recusal of Albemarle Co. Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins.

Prior to filing the official motion to recuse, the defense asked Judge Higgins five questions related to her involvement in the case. Court documents dated May 20 detail her answers. In them Higgins said she signed off on search warrants in the Matthew case but did not recall specifics.  

The defense believes that since the judge's daughter is currently attending UVA that it could compromise Higgins' judgment.  Higgins' daughter attended UVA at the same time Graham did, however there is no evidence that suggests Graham and Higgins' daughter had any contact or knew each other.

The motion also notes that the defense could challenge several search warrants issued in the investigation leading up to the case because Higgins authorized those warrants. Matthew's lawyers say she shouldn't be the one reviewing their legality.

Matthew is set to appear in court again on June 25. Judge Higgins was already planning on addressing her potential conflicts of interest in the case at that hearing.

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