The death-penalty trial for the man accused of killing a Chattanooga police officer has been set for 2013.
On Tuesday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman set a date of Jan. 22, 2013, for the trial of 26-year-old Jesse Mathews.
Mathews faces the death penalty on charges that he killed Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin on April 2 during a botched robbery of U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road.
Steelman said the trial date should give both sides adequate time and avoid any rush to trial.
"It's very important we don't do that in a case where the death penalty is involved," Steelman said.
Defense attorneys Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss explained to Steelman the length of work they and their staff are conducting to prepare for the trial.
"We have in our possession 16 boxes of mitigation materials," Hoss told Steelman.
Mitigation occurs during the sentencing phase of a death penalty trial, when both sides offer factors they think should be considered to reduce punishment or to increase punishment.
Hoss said the state-appointed mitigation expert had reviewed about 20 percent of the material and estimated many more months to complete her work in the case.
Steelman set a status hearing on the case for March 12, 2012, and said he likely would decide on a deadline for motion filings at the hearing.
Davis and Hoss have requested an outside jury hear the case, but Steelman has not yet ruled on that motion.
To date, all discoverable evidence has been exchanged between the defense and prosecutors District Attorney Bill Cox and Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston.
Chapin family members and fellow police officers attended the hearing, as they have all previous hearings. Family members declined to comment.
Police say Mathews shot and killed Chapin as the officer attempted to stop him from fleeing the store.
Before coming to Chattanooga, Mathews fled a Colorado halfway house after being accused of committing three robberies in February. He came to Chattanooga with the help of a girlfriend and his sister, Rachel Mathews; his mother, Kathleen Mathews; and father, Ray Vance Mathews, according to court documents.
All three have pleaded guilty in federal court and are scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 13, 2012, for aiding him while he was a fugitive.
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 ...