Jesse Matthew's Lawyers Question Validity of Evidence

Defense attorneys for the man charged with killing Virginia college students Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham argued in court Monday that crucial evidence should be thrown out, but after 10 hours of testimony, a judge sided with the prosecution.

It's evidence prosecutors believe could convict Jesse Matthew Jr. of Hannah Graham's abduction and murder. 

A pretrial hearing for Matthew focused on police actions concerning the September 2014 disappearance and death of Graham, 18, who vanished after a night out with friends. Graham was seen on surveillance video with a man police say is Matthew.

Graham's remains were found about five weeks after she disappeared, and Matthew was charged with capital murder in her death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Matthew's attorneys questioned the credibility of the investigators involved, specifically the information they gave to a judge, who allowed them to search Matthew's apartment and car for evidence. Officials retrieved several bags of evidence from those locations, including some that linked Matthew to other crimes.

"The defense is arguing the search warrant, which led to the discovery of evidence in Jesse Matthew's apartment, was not a valid search warrant, because the officers lied or misled the magistrate in some way about way the facts were," said former Albemarle County prosecutor Scott Goodman. 

"These attempts to get search warrants thrown out are not successful in most cases," he said.

A judge ruled that investigators were not misleading and the evidence is admissible. The defense will be able to challenge that notion Jan. 21, when more testimony will be heard.

A K-9 detective testified his bloodhound did not actually trace Graham to Matthew's apartment, as he alleged to a magistrate when police were seeking a search warrant.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, the detective said the dog traced the scent of Graham to the passenger side of Matthew's car, then to the entrance way of his apartment, and finally, to a nearby dumpster.

"The bottom line here is there was evidence found in Jesse Matthew's apartment that the defense doesn't want the jury to see or know about, so they're trying to get that evidence thrown out," Goodman said.

Graham went missing in September 2014. She was seen on security video walking alone past a pub and a gas station, and to Charlottesville's downtown mall. Matthew was also seen by the same security camera.

Witnesses said Matthew and Graham went into a bar together before she vanished.

At a hearing last month, a judge approved the hiring of a mental health expert to examine Matthew before his trial.

Matthew also faces first-degree murder charges in the death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, 20, who disappeared after attending a Metallica concert on the University of Virginia campus in 2009. Her remains were found in early 2010.

Matthew's trial for Graham's murder is set for July. Whatever the verdict, an appeal is expected.

His trial for Harrington's death is scheduled for October.

Matthew is already serving three life terms for the attempted murder and sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax, Virginia in 2005. 

Authorities have said DNA from the Graham case links Matthew to Harrington's death, as well as the 2005 attack.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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