Victim in 2005 case linked to Hannah Graham to take stand
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — The victim in a 2005 sexual assault that authorities have linked to the death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham is expected to take the witness stand at a pretrial hearing.
The victim is flying from India to testify at the trial next week of Jesse Matthew. Police have charged the 33-year-old Charlottesville man with attempted capital murder and sexual assault in the 2005 Fairfax County case, in addition to separate charges of abducting and killing Graham. Authorities say DNA evidence links the cases.
Thursday’s hearing is to determine whether the victim can reliably identify Matthew as her attacker. Matthew’s lawyers are skeptical that she can and say that her recollection of the decade-old attack might be corrupted by pretrial publicity that has frequently shown Matthew’s photo.
Matthew’s lawyers have asked that Thursday’s hearing be closed to the press. With the jury trial scheduled to begin Monday, public defender Dawn Butorac says that a heavily publicized pretrial hearing “will annihilate Mr. Matthew’s right to a free trial.” She argued that publicizing details of a suppression hearing defeats the purpose of such a hearing, because the jury pool could be exposed to the very testimony the defense wants to keep out of trial.
A lawyer for a consortium of news outlets, including The Associated Press, says the judge can neutralize the effects of pretrial publicity during jury selection.
Prosecutors also filed a response supporting the public’s right of access to pretrial hearings.
Last week, the judge warned that Thursday’s hearing could be delayed to Friday depending on the victim’s travel schedule — she was scheduled to arrive at the airport just hours before the start of the hearing.
Matthew faces up to life in prison if convicted in the Fairfax case. Prosecutors in Albemarle County are seeking the death penalty for Graham’s abduction and death, which prompted a frenzied, weekslong search for the teen that drew national headlines. A judge is scheduled to select a trial date in that case later this month.
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