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Jurors begin deliberations in Jessica Chambers case

Mississippi jurors on Sunday began deliberating the fate of a man accused of murder following a second trial over charges that he set a woman on fire in 2014

Posted: Oct 1, 2018 12:09 AM

Mississippi jurors on Sunday began deliberating the fate of a man accused of murder following a second trial over charges that he set a woman on fire in 2014.

The case, tried in Batesville before jurors from another county, concluded after six days of testimony in the death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers. Jurors deliberated for nearly five hours before recessing Sunday evening with plans to resume their consideration of the case Monday morning, member reports said.

Jurors couldn't reach a verdict in 29-year-old defendant Quinton Tellis' first trial last year. The case, beginning with a smoldering and mortally wounded Chambers stumbling away from her burning car on the outskirts of the north Mississippi hamlet of Courtland, has captured wide attention.

Like in the first trial, closing arguments highlighted jurors' choice. Prosecutors said evidence links Tellis to Chambers' death and that he lied to investigators. The defense emphasized testimony by emergency workers that they heard a dying Chambers say someone named Eric attacked her and that prosecutors concocted a complicated theory that makes Tellis look like a "supercriminal."

"I believe we have proven element required and I contend to you we have proven every element required to prove Quinton Tellis guilty of capital murder beyond a reasonable doubt," Panola County Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale told jurors.

Hale pointed to cellphone location data and surveillance video that supports prosecutors' timeline. They say Tellis and Chambers had sex after returning to Courtland from eating at a fast food restaurant and that Chambers' car was driven to a roadside. They say Tellis walked home, dropping Chambers' keys along the way, catching a ride. Then they say he borrowed an SUV, got a gas can, and returned to set Chambers on fire.

"Quinton Tellis went down to that crime scene and lit this child on fire," Hale said.

Defense attorney Alton Peterson told jurors that's a complicated scenario making Tellis out to be a "supercriminal." He suggested that investigators, out of leads months after the crime, unfairly focused on Tellis. He said there are too many facts not in evidence and prosecutors are asking jurors to make too many "jumps" in a timeline that's "utterly ridiculous."

"They came back to Quinton Tellis and they started working backwards," Peterson said. "They came up with a picture and it was their job to make the evidence fit into that picture."

For example, they questioned a new witness who didn't testify in the first trial — Sherry Flowers — who said she picked up an unidentified black male whom prosecutors contend was Tellis.

"Something seem a little suspicious to you, someone showing up now?" asked defense attorney Darla Palmer in closing arguments. "Seems made up to me."

Defense attorneys also again pounded on testimony by 10 emergency workers that Chambers told them at the scene that "Eric" had attacked her. Palmer urged jurors to discount testimony by two experts who said Chambers couldn't have formed words properly.

"There is reasonable doubt in this case," Palmer said. "Where is Eric? Where is the actual search of Eric who did this?"

Prosecutors showed hours of interrogation video with Tellis, arguing multiple changes in his story showed he was lying.

"Quinton Tellis had obviously not been truthful with investigators," Hale said. "He lied."

Defense attorneys, though, said Tellis was being questioned 10 months or longer after the incident and shouldn't be blamed for misremembering some details.

"Did he appear to be dishonest?" Palmer asked. "That's the basic thing. No, he kept talking. He continued to talk about and wanted to give them information about what happened."

Tellis faces another murder indictment in Louisiana in the Monroe stabbing death of Meing-Chen Hsiao, a former Taiwanese graduate student. He was already serving five years in prison in Mississippi on an unrelated burglary conviction and had already pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of Hsiao's debit card in Louisiana.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94021

Reported Deaths: 2846
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7017157
DeSoto544859
Harrison378073
Jackson341869
Madison321886
Rankin320276
Lee263368
Jones243878
Forrest240971
Washington218671
Lafayette211639
Lauderdale2015124
Bolivar179765
Oktibbeha175950
Lamar163934
Neshoba1548104
Panola144927
Sunflower142945
Lowndes141257
Warren138250
Leflore137781
Pontotoc124116
Pike121749
Monroe119966
Scott116825
Copiah116433
Coahoma113627
Holmes109458
Marshall108015
Lincoln107353
Grenada106835
Yazoo104130
Simpson101544
Union98324
Tate95837
Leake94138
Adams92236
Wayne87721
Pearl River86952
Marion84234
Prentiss82617
Covington80822
Itawamba78021
Alcorn77611
Tallahatchie76221
Newton76123
George75513
Winston73119
Tishomingo66537
Chickasaw66224
Tippah65017
Attala64325
Walthall59525
Clay58217
Hancock56921
Clarke56342
Jasper55915
Noxubee54515
Smith52614
Calhoun50712
Tunica48113
Montgomery45821
Claiborne45616
Lawrence42712
Yalobusha41914
Perry41318
Quitman3755
Humphreys37415
Stone36012
Greene35417
Webster33213
Jefferson Davis32911
Amite31410
Carroll31412
Wilkinson30118
Kemper28615
Sharkey26313
Jefferson2439
Benton2232
Franklin1913
Choctaw1806
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 132452

Reported Deaths: 2335
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19230342
Mobile13192291
Montgomery8711175
Madison767475
Tuscaloosa7355114
Lee576560
Shelby576550
Baldwin512449
Marshall388943
Calhoun339040
Etowah338447
Morgan322626
Houston275322
Elmore258647
DeKalb237519
St. Clair225535
Walker225080
Talladega209927
Limestone202119
Cullman186819
Dallas176226
Franklin174828
Russell17302
Autauga171425
Lauderdale166233
Colbert162126
Blount157314
Escambia157325
Jackson152711
Chilton151328
Dale134143
Covington133427
Coffee12898
Pike11729
Chambers114042
Tallapoosa113984
Clarke106317
Marion95228
Butler91138
Barbour8487
Winston71812
Marengo70219
Lowndes65127
Pickens63914
Bibb63510
Randolph62413
Hale61628
Lawrence60320
Bullock59314
Geneva5844
Monroe5798
Cherokee57516
Clay5537
Washington54913
Perry5396
Conecuh53011
Wilcox53011
Crenshaw52532
Henry4805
Macon47920
Fayette4299
Sumter42319
Lamar3552
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3346
Greene30215
Coosa1673
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