published Friday, November 30th, 2012

Judge refuses request to testify

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.
  • photo
    U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice, who recused himself from hearing an issue related to Jesse Mathews' murder trial, has denied Mathews' request that he testify in the case.

In a letter sent Thursday to Jesse Mathews' attorneys, Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss, Mattice said he had thoroughly considered the Nov. 15 request, but he cited federal guidelines that say judges "may not provide testimony" except under certain circumstances.

Mattice didn't find that Mathews' request met the requirements outlined in the guidelines. Mathews is set to be tried in January in Hamilton County Criminal Court in the shooting death of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin during a Brainerd Road pawnshop robbery on April 2, 2011.

Davis and Hoss want Mattice's testimony if Mathews is found guilty. They hope the judge's evidence would help persuade a jury not to give their client the death penalty.

Mattice wrote that transcripts of the sentencing hearings for Mathews' family members, over which he presided, were sufficient.

He added that his testimony could "inadvertently" release confidential information and testimony could "be perceived as expressing a personal position" as to Mathews' possible sentence.

Davis and Hoss have declined to comment on the proceedings in either federal or state court.

Mathews first requested that Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff testify because Neff prosecuted his mother, father, sister and sister's boyfriend. All were charged with crimes related to helping Jesse Mathews escape a halfway house and hide from the law.

Neff said Mathews' mother, who was given 30 years for her involvement, is evil and that she manipulated her son.

On Tuesday, Mattice recused himself from continuing to hear the request by Davis and Hoss that Neff be called to testify.

The federal issue will likely be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier.

Mathews' death penalty trial is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2013, but could be delayed if the federal issue isn't resolved, Davis has said in court.

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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