Judge denies motion to suppress evidence from Jesse Matthew’s apartment

Posted at 9:04 AM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 18:26:40-05

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. -- An Albemarle Circuit court judge denied Jesse Matthew’s defense team’s motion to suppress evidence from search warrants in his capital murder case. Matthew could face the death penalty for the murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

The defense wanted to suppress any and all items seized from Matthew’s apartment the morning of September 19, 2014 so it couldn’t be used in his upcoming trial.

In a hearing Monday, the defense argued that the search warrants were overly broad and exceeded scope. Hannah Graham’s parents sat in the front row throughout the three hour hearing along with murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington’s mother. Matthew is charged with first degree murder in the Harrington case.

The defense called one witness to the stand. Charlottesville Police Department Forensic Detective Jeremy Carper testified about his execution of the search warrant the morning of September 19, 2014 at Matthew’s Hessian Hills apartment. Carper was questioned in detail by the prosecution and defense about the 26 items he seized from the residence. Including, items with blood, semen and hair.

Carper described the apartment as being dark and dusty and Matthew’s room as being messy. He testified that there were clothing and papers all over the floor of the room and that a TV was on that was airing surveillance video of Matthew with Graham the night she disappeared. Detective Carper testified that he seized white sheets from Matthew’s bed that had several stains on them thought to be semen. He also seized other bedding, clothing and a hair tie with long light colored hair in it. Carper also testified, that a swab a bathroom sink in the apartment tested positive for traces of blood. Testimony revealed several pieces of bedding seized from Matthew’s roommate’s room had red stains. A black camisole that was seized was described as wet, dirty and ripped.

The defense took main issue with seven of the 26 items seized. The first was a Samsung Galaxy phone. The search warrant listed an iPhone 5S with a specific serial number and a cell phone bearing a specific phone number. The defense argued that police did not confirm the number of the Samsung phone before seizing it. The Commonwealth said there was probable cause since the phone was found right next to Matthew’s wallet which contained his ID. It also pointed out that the phone was missing its battery and a sims card had been removed. The defense also argued that Matthew’s wallet and the receipt and cigar butt inside of it should have never been seized. The cigar butt helped police obtain a DNA profile from Matthew. The defense said that should have been obtained in a separate warrant. The defense argued that a pair of shorts seized in Matthew’s room did not match the white long shorts described on the search warrant along with boxer shorts that were used to obtain a scent for a dog in the search. Finally, the defense objected to the seizure of Matthew’s paycheck and toothbrushes.

Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Sheryl Higgins stated that the court looks at the totality of the search warrant and noted that the affidavit for search warrant went into extreme detail. Therefore, the defense motion to suppress evidence was denied. Higgins said it was not overly broad and it did not exceed scope. This was a continuance of last week’s hearing when Higgins ruled that police did not intentionally mislead a magistrate in an affidavit for search warrant.

Matthew has been charged with capital murder of second-year University of Virginia student Hannah Graham and first-degree murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. He goes on trial in the Graham case in July. An October trial is scheduled for the Harrington case.

He entered an Alford plea last year to charges of attempted capital murder and sexual assault for a 2005 case in Fairfax County for which he has already been sentenced to three life terms in prison. The DNA from that case helped connect him to the Harrington case.

Matthew’s next scheduled hearing in the Graham case is March 2.

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