Gag Order Denied in Jesse Matthew Case

A judge denied a gag order in the Fairfax County attempted murder case of Jesse Matthew, the Charlottesville man also accused of abducting University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, but he approved the defense request for funds for its own DNA expert.

The Fairfax County case, which is expected to go to trial March 9, is related to a 2005 sexual assault. Matthew also has been charged in Charlottesville with abducting Graham but has not yet been charged in her death.

Defense attorneys, concerned about pretrial publicity, requested the gag order. Prosecutors said they want freedom to discuss procedural issues and are careful not say anything prejudicial.

"We oppose the gag order because I think it is important for the public to have access to information about how the process works,” prosecutor Ray Morrogh said. “I think it promotes confidence in the courts. I'm actually proud of our court system."

The victim, then 26, was walking home from a grocery store when she was grabbed and dragged into a wooded area, where she was sexually assaulted. The assailant left her after being startled by a passerby.

According to a search warrant, DNA from a wooden cigar tip found in Matthew's wallet matches the Fairfax case and the case of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student found dead in early 2010.

The defense requested $2,000 to hire its own DNA expert, citing DNA as the only link between Matthew and the Fairfax assault. The defense said it was not provided a copy of the certificate of analysis by the commonwealth but instead got it from the Washington Post.

Matthew has not been charged in the Harrington case.

A judge rejected a request from news media for cameras in the courtroom on Thursday.

Because Graham's case has attracted significant media attention, a coalition of media organizations had asked to place a still camera and a video camera in the courtroom for the Fairfax trial and pretrial hearings.

Both prosecutors and the defense opposed the request for cameras. Prosecutor Ray Morrogh urged the denial, saying the victim is "really, really vehemently opposed to cameras in the courtroom."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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