Jesse Matthew lawyers seek to exclude media from Fairfax hearing

FAIRFAX, Va. — Lawyers for the man charged with murdering University of Virginia student Hannah Graham want a judge to ban reporters from a pretrial hearing in which the victim of a 2005 rape is expected to identify Matthew as her attacker.

The woman, who was 26 at the time of the attack in Fairfax City, arrives from India Thursday morning, hours before an afternoon hearing in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Matthew’s trial is scheduled to begin Monday.  He faces three life sentences, after being indicted on charges of attempted capital murder, abduction with intent to defile and object penetration.

Thursday’s hearing is to determine whether the complaining witness can reliably identify Matthew. His lawyers have argued she only got a glimpse of her attacker, and that identifying Matthew from mug shots, or sitting at the defense table, is prejudicial.

Public Defender Dawn Butorac writes, “If the information is in the news media in the days before trial, it will annihilate Mr. Matthew’s right to a fair trial.”

Butorac says news coverage has been “intense and pervasive,” and whether or not the woman can identify Matthew, it “is not the type of information that potential jurors should be privy to just a few short days before the start of the trial.”

It is not clear whether prosecutors will object to the defense motion, since prosecutors have sought to protect the woman’s privacy leading to trial.

Last week, the judge ordered both sides to refer to the woman by her initials in motions, after her full name had been publicized in a defense motion posted on the court website.

In another motion, Butorac requested the judge direct prosecutors to not make any reference to previous or pending charges in other jurisdictions.

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