FAIRFAX, Va. – Jesse Matthew's surprise plea on charges including attempted murder has shifted focus to what now looms: a capital murder trial for the abduction and death last year of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Also unresolved: whether Matthew will be charged in the death of student Morgan Harrington. Her case is linked to the others by DNA evidence but no charges have been filed.
Matthew was convicted Wednesday in Fairfax County of a 2005 sexual assault after entering an Alford plea. In such a plea, a defendant acknowledges the prosecution's evidence but makes no admission of guilt.
If prosecutors obtain a conviction in the Graham case, they can use the Fairfax conviction to bolster their argument for a death sentence in that trial's penalty phase.