Mental health defense raised in Hannah Graham murder

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — For the first time in the Hannah Graham murder trial, lawyers for Jesse Matthew have raised the possibility of a mental health defense.

In a pretrial hearing, Matthew’s capital defender Douglas Ramseur asked for, and was granted by Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins, $350 per hour for a mental health expert.

It is unclear whether Matthew’s attorneys might raise an insanity defense before the Graham trial, which is scheduled for July 2016, or whether his mental health might be used as a mitigating circumstance in sentencing, if he is convicted.

Matthew’s mental health was never raised during his Fairfax County trial earlier this year for a 2005 rape. In the first pretrial hearing in the Fairfax case, Matthew’s former lawyer James Camblos told the judge he wanted his client evaluated, but Matthew’s public defenders never had him tested.

However, during sentencing in Fairfax, Matthew’s defenders mentioned he had suffered several concussions.

Ramseur and private attorney Michael Hemenway will hire psychologist William Stejskal, of Woodbridge, to evaluate Matthew.

In October, Stejskal testified for the defense in the trial of Charles Severance, who was convicted in three Alexandria murders.

Stejskal diagnosed Severance with a form of schizophrenia.

Severance was convicted of the murders of Nancy Dunning, Ruthanne Lodato, and Ronald Kirby.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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