published Friday, November 16th, 2012

Jesse Mathews wants federal judge's testimony for trial

Jesse Mathews is escorted into court in this file photo.
Jesse Mathews is escorted into court in this file photo.
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Jesse Mathews' attorneys want to interview the federal judge who sentenced Mathews' family members to decades in prison for helping him before he was accused of robbing a pawnshop and killing a Chattanooga police sergeant.

Mathews' attorneys, Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss, filed the request and letter with the federal court Thursday. Mathews wants his attorneys to ask U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice how he concluded that Mathews' mother, Kathleen Mathews, had an "evil" influence over her son.

At her Feb. 13 sentencing, Mattice and Kathleen Mathews had a brief exchange that illuminates part of why the attorneys want the judge to testify:

Mathews: I will ask you why are you willing to punish me for things that my son did?

Mattice: Because I think you set those in motion.

Jesse Mathews is accused of killing Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin during a botched robbery of a Brainerd Road store on April 2, 2011. His trial is set for Jan. 13, 2013, and he faces a possible death penalty if found guilty.

He already has asked that Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff be interviewed so his testimony can be presented to the jury during the sentencing phase of his trial, if he is found guilty.

Neff stated at Kathleen Mathews' sentencing that she "personifies evil" and had a manipulative hold over her son and others.

In sentencing for a death penalty case, prosecutors and defense attorneys put on evidence attempting to convince jurors to decide in their favor. Only in federal death penalty cases do jurors decide the punishment.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian denied the request to interview Neff, which sent the request to Mattice. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

Mathews' attorneys are asking Mattice to recuse himself, in part because of their request for his testimony.

Mattice declined to comment. Hoss and Davis referred to court documents filed in the case.

The judge made comments about Kathleen Mathews' conduct when the family was sentenced on charges that they helped Jesse Mathews while he was a federal fugitive before the shooting.

Mattice sentenced Kathleen Mathews to 30 years, more than the sentences of Jesse's father, Ray; sister, Rachel, and Rachel's boyfriend, James Poteete.

Kathleen Mathews is appealing that sentence.

Mattice cited a detailed letter that she had written him while awaiting sentencing.

"If you don't want to answer it, you don't have to, but in studying this, including what you've wrote to me, I'll be honest, I believe that your value system is a little bit different from mine and most other people's," he said.

"I agree with that," Kathleen Mathews responded.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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