Federal prosecutors say attorneys for Jesse Mathews can use court records, but they can't get testimony from the man who prosecuted the accused killer's family.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Bauknight on Friday filed a response to requests from Mathews' attorneys, Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss, to conduct a video interview with federal prosecutor Steve Neff to use in the potential sentencing phase of their client's January death penalty trial.
In her written response, Bauknight said that U.S. Attorney Bill Killian's denial to allow Neff to testify in state court falls within the law, which allows federal agencies to decide when or if its members can be called to testify in state court proceedings.
Mathews is charged with killing Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin during the botched robbery of a store on Brainerd Road on April 2, 2011.
Bauknight asked for a hearing on Nov. 16 to speed up the process, followed by a hearing before U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice on Nov. 20 to review the filings so far.
Davis has asked for a hearing date on Nov. 26, 27 or 29, citing a previously scheduled conflict for him and Hoss.
Mathews' mother, Kathleen; father, Ray Vance; sister, Rachel; and sister's boyfriend, James Poteete, were prosecuted by Neff for crimes connected to Mathews during his time as a federal fugitive from unrelated armed robberies in Colorado.
Kathleen received 30 years in prison for her part, the most severe of all sentenced.
During federal court actions and in documents, Neff called Kathleen a "fairly rare breed of criminal" who is evil, manipulative and has had strong influence over her son's criminal career.
Davis and Hoss want to get Neff's testimony to present as evidence to a jury if their client is found guilty. After a death penalty case conviction, jurors decide the punishment and, in the sentencing portion of the trial, both sides offer evidence to influence jurors to decide on the appropriate sentence.
Bauknight listed five reasons for Killian denying the request:
• Neff had not been personally served with the summons.
• The testimony sought is protected because it is part of the "deliberative process."
• The Mathews family sentences are on appeal.
• Neff's testimony could be considered hearsay and might not be permitted in state court.
• Neff's testimony is in the sentencing transcript, a public record that can be used in place of his testifying either on video or in person.
Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman, Davis, Hoss and state prosecutors Bill Cox and Neal Pinkston traveled to Nashville on Nov. 7 to begin screening jurors for the scheduled Jan. 22 trial.
Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.