At a previous motions hearing, Judge Cheryl Higgins allowed police to unshackle Jesse Matthew’s belly chain, freeing his hands to only handcuff restraints. Nonetheless, in a September 30 hearing, Matthew appeared, once again, with handcuffs attached to his belly chain, making it difficult for him to raise his right hand when he waived his rights to a speedy trial for charges of the murder of Morgan Harrington.
The trial was set for October 2016, just three months after Matthew will face capital charges for the abduction and slaying of UVA student Hannah Graham.
The defense had asked Higgins to recuse herself in the Graham case because she has a daughter who is a UVA student. Judge Higgins disclosed in the Harrington portion of the hearing that her second daughter goes to Virginia Tech, where Harrington was also a student.
Higgins also heard motions by defense attorney Doug Ramseur and denied all but one, allowing the defense to file motions under seal, giving the public no access to the motions until the time of the motions hearing. The commonwealth’s responses will be kept under seal, as well.
“The reporters who are covering this are certainly invested,” Ramseur said, adding that every motion he files gets reported and it could affect Matthew’s right to a fair trial. He also stated that motions potentially involving the names of witnesses raised serious concerns because he does not want the media to contact witnesses before the trial.
Higgins denied the defense’s’ request for Matthew to undergo a prison violence risk assessment by a professional, as well as the request for all grand jury information such as identities and addresses, and selection processes for the grand jury over the past four years.
After the motions hearing and scheduling for the Morgan Harrington trial, Gil Harrington, her mother, said she approached Matthew’s mother, offered her condolences and shook her hand.
“It’s very surreal to be here as many times as we’ve been here,” Harrington said. “You become habituated to the obscenity of it.”
Matthew is scheduled to be sentenced in Fairfax on October 2 for a 2005 sexual assault of which he is also convicted.
“We’ll obviously be interested in what happens,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford after the September 30 hearing, “but that’s a separate case in a separate jurisdiction.”