Jesse Matthew Jr. who was charged with first-degree murder is facing a major sentence if convicted for the murder of Hannah Graham, but now that his charges have been changed to capital murder, Matthew may get the death penalty, if convicted. Evidence against Jesse may prove that he murdered the University of Virginia student, Graham, and if the prosecution is successful in persuading a jury that Matthew is guilty, he may be facing execution for his crime. Attorney Denise Lunsford of Albemarle County said that new evidence presented against Matthew caused her to go to the grand jury and seek higher charges. Though the new evidence was not revealed, Lunsford said that she will be seeking the death penalty in the case against the defendant.
Cheryl Higgins, the Albemarle County Circuit Judge who is over the case, originally set a date at pre-trial for June 29. However, at the request of Matthew’s attorney the trial was postponed. The trial was also postponed due to the new evidence that was presented, which allowed forensic analysts to examine the evidence. Now the judge is expected to set a new date for the trial to begin. In the meantime, the defendant faces capital charges for first-degree murder, abduction and intent to defile. In light of the new upgraded charges, Judge Higgins released the attorney who was previously defending Jesse and appointed attorney’s who were “death penalty qualified.”
Judge Higgins supposedly has daughters who attend the University of Virginia, where Hannah Graham attended school. Though some are saying that this is a conflict of interest for the judge, Higgins stated that he daughters did not really know the victim. Graham was an 18-year-old student who went out for a night with friends in September and never came home. As residents of Virginia helped search for the student, her body was found five weeks later. Matthew was supposedly the last person who saw Graham, and surveillance accounts showed that Graham and Matthew were together, at some point, the night she disappeared.
Lunsford told reporters that choosing to up the charges to capital murder was not an easy decision. She stated that she believed that the case could be worth seeking the death penalty and that if she did not believe that she would not have fought for the increased charges. Though it is unclear exactly how much evidence the prosecution has against Matthew, or even how strong the evidence is, it may be appropriate to say that the evidence is probably pretty strong. If the prosecution believes at this point that they can bring back a verdict against Matthew for the murder of Graham, especially one that may cause him to get the death penalty, it seems the odds may be in the prosecution’s favor.
Matthew was arrested on September 24, 2014. Police found him on a beach in Galveston, Texas, which is over 1000 miles away from where Graham was killed. He was arrested and taken back to Virginia to await trial. Though his new date has not been set yet, the trial is set to begin within the next couple of months, pending the judge setting the new official date. Graham’s family is anxiously awaiting justice for their daughter, while Matthew’s family is fully supporting their son. Only time will tell if Jesse Matthew Jr. will get a verdict of guilty for the murder of Hannah Graham, but if he is convicted, his penalty may be death.
By Crystal Boulware
Photo By: Gary Coronado Houston Chronicle