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.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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