What the Jesse Matthew jury never heard

FAIRFAX, Va. — Newly unsealed documents reveal details jurors never heard in Jesse Matthew’s trial for a 2005 sexual attack in Fairfax County.

Jurors were never told why Matthew happened to be in the Fairfax area the night he viciously attacked the then-26-year old woman as she walked home from the Giant with two bags of groceries.

Sources say prosecutors believe Matthew, who lived in Charlottesville, was visiting friends.

Included in the material, which was unsealed by Circuit Court Judge David Schell after Matthew entered an Alford plea, were notes from an interview with a friend of Matthew’s.

The man, Sunny Patel, was subpoenaed by the prosecution but wasn’t called to the stand to testify during the trial.

In an interview last month, Patel told investigators he met Matthew in 2002. Patel says he and a roommate were visited periodically by Matthew, including during the time period of the 2005 attack.

According to the investigator’s notes, Patel said Matthew, who he knew as L.J., “came two or three times in 2005 — he knew where we lived.”

Given the passage of time, Patel was not able to recall specifically whether Matthew visited in September 2005. Matthew attacked the woman the evening of Sept. 24, 2005.

Attempts by WTOP to contact Patel at home and work were not immediately successful.

Also included in the unsealed documents were handwritten notes by police officers, which were scrawled on a small pad the night of the attack, during an interview with the victim.

Included was this entry: “Poss could of scratched him.”  DNA recovered from under the victim’s fingernails belonged to Matthew, making it the strongest piece of evidence identifying him as the woman’s attacker.

The file also includes a page of 38 thumbnail photos of Matthew, with no shirt on. It is not clear from the document when and under what conditions the photos were taken, but they show close-ups of his face, hands, beard and mustache.

Other photos from his MySpace page show Matthew, enjoying lighting a cigar. DNA recovered from a cigar butt was used to identify Matthew.

It’s unlikely the jury would have heard about it, but on June 5, the day after the victim flew in from India for a pretrial hearing, public defender Dawn Butorac filed a motion citing examples of how mistakes in local media coverage were jeopardizing Matthew’s chances for a fair trial.

Attaching articles from two websites — wusa.com and wtvr.com — Butorac says they were “replete with inaccuracies.”

While the victim was merely asked about conversations with police and prosecutors before trial, Butorac wrote “These news articles claim that the complainant identified Mr. Matthew in court.”

Butorac said with that imprecise reporting, “The media has improperly influenced the potential jury pool.”

Matthew will be sentenced Oct. 2. He faces three life sentences in Fairfax, before going on trial in Albemarle County for the capital murder of Hannah Graham.

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.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up