Judge asked to recuse himself from accused cop killer's hearing

Judge asked to recuse himself from accused cop killer's hearing

April 12th, 2011 by Joan Garrett McClane and Beth Burger in News

In this file photo, Judge Robert Moon sits in his courtroom.

A public defender for the man charged in the killing of a Chattanooga police sergeant has asked a Hamilton County General Sessions Court judge to be removed from the case because he wrote a memorial poem about the fallen officer.

Public Defender Karla Gothard, who is representing suspect Jesse Mathews on a charge of felony murder, among others, said Judge Bob Moon walked in Tim Chapin's funeral procession Thursday and plans to publish his poem, "Away is Not Forever," for the public to read.

"The defendant feels that should Judge Moon fail to disqualify himself, his impartiality might be open to question," the motion filed Monday states.

Gothard also represented the man convicted of killing Chattanooga Police Department Officer Julie Jacks in 2002, the last time a city officer was killed in the line of duty. Isaac E. Jones was found guilty in that case and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Moon would not say whether the poem, written as a tribute to Chapin, shows that he would be biased in the murder case. He said he would review judicial ethics codes and laws before ruling on the motion Wednesday morning.

"I'm taking the motion to recuse ... under advisement," he said.

A spokeswoman at the Administrative Office of the Courts said the office was notified of the motion.

Moon's poem talks about the loss of the policeman's life and the hope of meeting him in heaven.

"Thank you for taking care of us. Your brothers and sisters too. This thin blue line inside of them. Is now one man too few .... But away is not forever. And we will see you soon. As we remember your smile and gentle ways. As you dance across the moon," the poem reads.

Chapin, a 26-year veteran of the police department, was killed April 2 while trying to apprehend a robbery suspect just behind U.S. Money Shops at 5952 Brainerd Road. Mathews fired upon at least three responding officers inside the business before exiting out the side door, according to police reports.

Chapin pursued Mathews in his patrol car while other officers pursued him on foot, reports state. Chapin struck Mathews with the vehicle, knocking him down. Mathews, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, stood back up and fired into Chapin's vehicle.

According to the report, Chapin got out of his car and he and Mathews exchanged gunfire. Chapin was killed when he was shot in the head.

Another officer, Lorin Johnston, was struck in his back but his bulletproof vest protected him.

Six officers were placed on administrative leave for six days because of their involvement in the shooting. All except Johnston were back at work Monday, according to authorities.

Moon told a local website that Chapin's fellow officers and friends asked him to write the poem, which was displayed during Chapin's funeral at Abba's House.

"I have known Tim for many years," he told the website. "And it was an honor and a privilege to do so."

Contact Joan Garrett at jgarrett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6601. Contact Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.