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Judge refuses to recuse herself in Jesse Matthew case; sets July 2016 trial date

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — An Albemarle judge refused to recuse herself from the capital murder trial of Jesse Matthew. Matthew’s defense team argued Judge Cheryl Higgins could not be fair or impartial.  Judge Higgins denied their motion. Matthew’s trial date was set for July 5, 2016. It was expected to run until July 29.

Higgins, the defense said, issued search warrants early on in the case. A move defense lawyers deemed unusual. They also said one member of the judge’s family attended a vigil for Hannah Graham and Judge Higgins has a child at the University of Virginia. Matthew is accused of murdering Virginia student Hannah Graham last fall.

When initially questioned about her ability to be fair, Higgins said that to the best of her knowledge, neither family members nor herself were involved in the investigation, nor did they have a personal or professional relationship with the Grahams. She did say one family member attended a vigil held for Graham, one week after the student’s disappearance.

Earlier this month, Matthew was convicted of attempted capital murder and sex crimes against a woman in Fairfax County. Matthew entered an Alford Plea. He faces life in prison when he is sentenced in the Fairfax case in October.