Prosecutors plan to challenge gag order in Jesse Matthew case

FAIRFAX, Va. — The man charged in the disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham will be back in court in Fairfax County in an unrelated case Friday.

Lawyers will be deciding on three motions ahead of the scheduled March 9 trial for Jesse Matthew in a 2005 sexual assault of a 26-year-old woman in Fairfax City. The charges include rape and attempted capital murder.

One decision Fairfax County Circuit Judge David Schell will have to make is on a gag order for prosecutors from Jesse Matthew’s lawyers. They want prosecutors to be barred from talking with the media before and during the trial, and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh plans to fight the suggestion.

“I believe there is value in a public prosecutor cooperating with the media insofar as keeping the public informed of procedural matters,” Morrogh said.

Morrogh says he wants to remain cooperative with the media, but he said, “I do not comment on evidence or violate the rules governing prosecutors’ comments to the media.”

The other motions on the agenda for Friday deal with a motion for a defense expert witness and another dealing with discovery.

On Thursday, the judge denied a motion from several news organizations, including WTOP, requesting that a camera be allowed in the courtroom. After hearing calls from the defense and prosecution to block the motion, Judge Schell agreed, citing state code which prohibits cameras in the courtroom during proceedings involving sex offenses.

“The victim’s primary concern is her privacy and that of her family, and we have pledged to do everything we can to preserve that,” Morrogh said.

Matthew was linked to the Fairfax case by DNA, and authorities have said there is a forensic link between the sexual assault and the 2009 murder of Morgan Harrington.

Jesse Matthew was arrested during the search for Hannah Graham. He was the subject of nationwide manhunt after he was charged in her abduction by the Charlottesville police.

Graham’s body was found on Oct. 17 in Albemarle County.

Matthew has not been charged in the death of either Hannah Graham or Morgan Harrington.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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