Jesse Matthew enters Alford plea in Fairfax assault trial - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Jesse Matthew enters Alford plea in Fairfax assault trial

Jesse Matthew stands with his attorneys. (Credit: NBC12) Jesse Matthew stands with his attorneys. (Credit: NBC12)
FAIRFAX, VA (WWBT) - The Fairfax trial for Jesse Matthew has come to an end earlier than expected. The man accused of murdering UVA student Hannah Graham voluntarily entered an Alford plea Wednesday in a separate trial for a 2005 attempted murder and sexual assault.

The trial was scheduled to last up to two weeks but it never reached a fourth day and because of Matthew's surprise announcement, it never even made it to the jury.

"Yes, I was a bit surprised by it. I had hoped to present this to a jury,” said prosecutor Ray Morrogh.

The shocking news led him to immediately call the victim, who lives in India.

"She said she was deeply moved, really moved by the fact that people from so far away would work so hard for so many years to bring her justice,” he said.

In court Wednesday, the prosecution called its last witness to the stand, a forensic expert who analyzed Jesse Matthew's DNA in 2014, which was then compared to the fingernail of the victim. The expert told the court the chance the DNA collected is not Matthew's is one in 7.2 billion. That's what hit home for juror Willie McDuffy.

"I felt her pain. I almost teared up,” he said.

McDuffy said Matthew didn't seem to show much emotion while in court. “He was kind of, it's hard to say because he was looking around. I couldn't gauge. He was very expressionless,”he said.

But after changing his plea, Matthew did become emotional when the judge advised him there is no parole in Virginia.

"We'll be seeking a substantial penitentiary sentence giving the nature of these crimes,” Morrogh added.

Grieving mother Gil Harrington will be watching, since investigators have said there's also a DNA link between Matthew and her murdered daughter, Morgan Harrington -- although Matthew is not charged in her death.

Harrington empathized with the Fairfax witness who came forward. "I applaud her courage to come forth," she said. "By golly, she wants to stand in front of the court and speak her peace. That also shows incredible bravery,” Harrington said.

The victim in this case will return to Fairfax next week to address the court on how this sexual assault has impacted her. Matthew is set to be sentenced in October. He faces up to life in prison for all three charges, which include sexual assault, abduction, and attempted murder.

Follow NBC12's Brent Solomon on Twitter for real-time updates from the courtroom.

Matthew also is charged in a separate case with the abduction and killing last year of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.

NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says Matthew got absolutely nothing out of his Alford plea-- no deal on a sentence. He's also waived his right to appeal. Benjamin said when it comes to the Hannah Graham case in Albemarle County, “This conviction [in the Fairfax case] could quality as additional evidence to dangerous-ness, which is one of the considerations if he's convicted for the imposition of the death penalty."

Prosecutors say they did not offer any plea deal to Matthew, but that he made the Alford plea himself. 

During day two in court, the nurse who examined the victim testified. The defense also brought up multiple persons of interest, but the prosecution maintained Matthew is the only lead offering a DNA link.

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