The Criminal Court judge presiding over Jesse Mathews' death penalty case on Friday for now denied a defense request to delay the January trial and told both sides to prepare for initial jury selection work Nov. 7.
Judge Barry Steelman told Mathews' attorneys, Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss, that jurors in Davidson County already have been summoned. He said the attorneys will continue with the scheduled date to present a jury questionnaire and begin preparations for the Jan. 22, 2013, trial.
The defense and the prosecutors, District Attorney Bill Cox and his assistant, Neal Pinkston, each have submitted proposed questionnaires from which the judge will select questions for the final version.
A pool of as many as 600 jurors will be asked to complete the questionnaire Nov. 6. Some may be excused, but as many as half will be asked to come back to court in January for possible service, according to court testimony.
Davis argued this week that U.S. Attorney Bill Killian's refusal to allow his prosecutor Steve Neff to be interviewed for mitigation in Mathews' case would result in "reversible errors." Davis predicted an appeal immediately following Mathews' trial.
Neff prosecuted Mathews' mother, father, sister and the sister's boyfriend for crimes related to Mathews' fugitive flight from Colorado and to the shooting of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin.
Mathews is charged with first-degree murder in the April 2, 2011, shooting during a botched robbery at the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road.
Neff said during the sentencing of Kathleen Mathews, Jesse's mother, that she had manipulated him and others to do her bidding.
Davis wants to be able to use that investigation, testimony and the basis for those statements in mitigation of the sentence if his client is found guilty.
Defense attorneys introduce mitigating circumstances during sentencing in hopes of convincing jurors not to impose the death penalty.
Prosecutors put on aggravating evidence, hoping to convince the jury to deliver a death sentence.
Cox and Pinkston have maintained in both recent hearings that Neff's testimony would be mere opinion and should not be admitted as evidence.
Steelman said Friday he would complete work on the questionnaire Monday.
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 ...