CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CNS) – Prosecutors said Tuesday they will now seek the death penalty for Jesse Matthew, who is accused of murdering University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Prosecutor Denise Lunsford announced the new charge during a pretrial conference in Albemarle County Circuit Court.
If convicted, Matthew could face the death penalty.
In light of new charges, capital defenders Douglas Ramseur and Michael Hemmingway have been appointed to represent Matthew for all pending charges against him in Albemarle County, including the capital murder, rape and abduction with intent to defile 18-year-old Hannah Graham.
Graham’s remains were found in Albemarle County this past September after a five-week search for the missing college student.
Lunsford cited over 50 witnesses in different states scheduled to testify during the trial, which was originally expected to take place over a three-week period. A death-qualified jury must now be assembled before the trial may begin.
The attorneys did not mention whether the new charges would affect the overall length of the trial.
Although Tuesday’s conference was originally set to determine Matthew’s trial date, Judge Cheryl Higgins consented to Ramseur’s request for more time to prepare for his client’s trial.
In addition, Higgins, who has a daughter in her second year of college at University of Virginia, may face recusal. She set a date of June 25 to determine the final trial date as well as any motion for recusal.
“I am not aware that my daughter had any classes with Ms. Graham or any contact with Ms. Graham, socially or otherwise,” Higgins stated in court.
Matthew’s former attorney, Jim Cambloss, does not have capital-murder experience and will no longer provide counsel, despite Matthews’ “great desire that Cambloss still be appointed as a member of the team,” Ramseur told Higgins.
After expressing her concern that Cambloss lacks capital-murder experience, Lunsford submitted that four attorneys on Matthew’s case “does seem excessive.”
Matthew is scheduled to appear in Fairfax on June 8 on unrelated sexual assault charges, for which the prosecution anticipates a two-week-long trial.
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