Federal Judge Sandy Mattice has told attorneys for the man charged with killing Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin that he is turning down their request to testify at a sentencing phase of the trial.
In a four-page hand-delivered letter to attorneys Lee Davis and Bryan Hoss, Judge Mattice said he carefully considered the request and said he is "keenly aware of the potential consequences your client faces in his state criminal proceedings." The state is seeking the death penalty for Jesse Mathews.
The judge also said, "I am profoundly aware that no one is above the law and that each individual has a personal responsibility to participate in the legal process so as to advance the cause of justice."
But he said, "Unfortunately, I cannot accede to your request."
He said under the federal Guide to Judiciary Policy, federal judges may not provide testimony in legal proceedings except as otherwise authorized by the regulations.
Judge Mattice said a number of factors in the policy weigh against him testifying in the Mathews case.
He said information about how the mother of Mathews, Katherine Mathews, may have affected him for evil is available in public transcripts.
The defense wants to cite evidence that Ms. Mathews was a controlling influence over her son and was involved in his criminal activity.
Judge Mattice said during his testimony that certain information that was sealed in the federal proceedings against Ms. Mathews might "inadvertently" come out.
He also said, "Moreover, I am concerned that my testimony could be perceived as expressing a personal position as to the propriety of any sentence that your client may face. Simply put, direct testimony from a federal district court judge in a state death penalty case could reflect poorly upon my impartiality in future criminal cases, or upon the impartiality of the federal judiciary in general."
He asked the attorneys that he be notified "as to whether you intend to pursue contempt proceedings or seek to institute enforcement of the subpoena in state court."
The defense is also seeking to have federal prosecutor Steve Neff testify in the Mathews sentencing. He has also declined.
The defense filed suit in federal court seeking to require the prosecutor to testify. Judge Mattice was assigned that case, but he has recused himself.