Jesse Mathews' attorneys seek to interview prosecutor

Jesse Mathews' attorneys seek to interview prosecutor

October 23rd, 2012 by Todd South in News

Jesse Mathews

Defense attorneys for Jesse Mathews have asked a federal judge to allow them to interview the lawyer who prosecuted Mathews' family for their involvement in his alleged crimes.

Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss on Monday filed an Administrative Procedure Act complaint in federal court asking that a judge allow them to interview Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff and present his testimony to the jury should Mathews be found guilty of murder.

The lawyers want to use statements submitted by Neff during a sentencing hearing for Jesse's mother Kathleen, father Ray and sister Rachel Mathews.

In court documents Neff wrote that Kathleen "personifies evil and her influence over those who are weaker minded than she [is] remarkable," Hoss told Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman in a separate hearing Monday.

"She has mental and psychological abilities to manipulate others and influences others to do evil," Hoss said, quoting Neff.

Mathews faces the death penalty on charges he shot and killed Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin during a botched robbery of the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road on April 2, 2011.

In Tennessee a death penalty trial has two phases, the trial phase in which a defendant is found guilty or not guilty; and a penalty phase in which the jury determines if the defendant should receive death.

During the penalty phase both the prosecution and defense are allowed to put on enhancing and mitigating evidence to convince the jury to agree with their side.

In February, Kathleen Mathews was sentenced to 30 years for conspiracy to obstruct justice and weapons-related charges connected to Jesse Mathews' alleged shooting. Ray Mathews received 20 years, and Rachel Mathews got 11 years.

Davis and Hoss asked Steelman to rule that transcripts and a proposed deposition of Neff be allowed as evidence in Mathews' potential mitigation phase of his pending January trial.

If the judge was not ready, the lawyers asked Steelman to hold off on any ruling regarding their requested deposition until the federal courts decide if Neff will be forced to be questioned.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian, Neff's boss, earlier denied Davis and Hoss' request, citing "sovereign immunity," which Killian says prevents federal prosecutors from being called to testify, according to court documents.

He also said Neff's testimony would be inappropriate because the sentences have been appealed by some of the defendants.

District Attorney Bill Cox told Steelman that Killian and he had spoken and the U.S. attorney would expedite responses to the defense attorneys' requests to avoid any delay in the scheduled Jan. 22, 2013, trial.

Cox argued that neither the transcripts nor a videotaped deposition of Neff should be put before a jury because both were opinion and not factual evidence.

Mathews was not in court for the Monday hearing.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.