Jesse Matthew being escorted into Albemarle County Circuit Court
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -
An Albemarle County judge says she will not recuse herself from Jesse Matthew's trial.
Matthew faces the death penalty for allegedly abducting and killing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Matthew's legal team has said in court papers that Albemarle Co. Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins approved search warrants that will be challenged at trial. The defense also notes that the judge's daughter attends UVA, and has attended a vigil for Graham.
Thursday, Judge Higgins said she will recuse herself from any pretrial hearings that call into question the legality of search warrants she signed off on.
Matthew's capital defender said "that kind of ruling is inviting error," adding that it's also inappropriate. The defense plans to call into question some of the 54 search warrants executed in the case for probable cause issues. The case started with the city of Charlottesville and ended in Albemarle County.
"While it's not entirely unusual that different judges hear different pieces of the case, making a contemplative decision before-hand that another judge will handle certain specific issues, it is not entirely typical. I'll just put it that way; I'm sure it's happened before,"said Albemarle Co. Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford.
Judge Higgins has set a trial date for July 5, 2016, through the 29th. The court is making preparations for a jury trial.
Since the case is capital, both the prosecution and the defense have set a total of eight motions hearings ahead of the trial. Those dates are: - August 20 at 1:30 p.m. - September 30 at 2 p.m. - November 10 at 2 p.m. - January 5 at 1:30 p.m. - March 2 at 1:30 p.m. - April 19 at 1:30 p.m. - May 9 at 10 a.m. - May 25 at 1:30 p.m.
Earlier this month, 33-year-old Matthew was convicted of attempted capital murder, abduction, and sexual assault in an unrelated 2005 case in Fairfax County. He'll be sentenced in October.