SuperTalk Mississippi

DA looking at June date for retiral in Chambers murder case

Quinton Tellis. Courtesy of Panola County Sheriff's Department.

Back in October, a jury couldn’t reach a verdict in the Jessica Chambers murder trial, and a mistrial was declared. Quinton Tellis, the defendant, was charged with the murder after the 19-year-old was found burning to death in Courtland, Mississippi back in December 2014.

The original trial ended with a hung jury after a bizarre flow of events. After nearly 10 hours of deliberation, the jury emerged from their quarters several times without a unanimous decision. A not-guilty verdict was read until one juror spoke up and stated that all jurors had not agreed on the verdict. Several months have passed, and now DA John Champion says that they may be getting close to setting a date for a retrial.

“We have not set a date yet, but we are looking at a June date. We have to get with the defense lawyers and make sure it’s good with them, but the judge is available in June,” Champion said.

Related: What you need to know about the murder of Jessica Chambers

Tellis was originally tried on a Capitol Murder charge but will be tried on a lesser charge in the second trial.

Shortly after the first trial ended, Champion commented on the outcome of the trial and said that they had never seen anything like it. Champion went on to explain that perhaps better jury instructions must be given in order to prevent a similar outcome.

“The defense lawyers, me and my assistant DA, and the judge had never seen anything like it before. You can’t prevent something like that from happening. You’re dealing with 12 people on a jury, once we get it to them what happens next is up to them. I think this was a unique situation, will it happen again? I hope not,” Champion questioned. “Can I say it won’t? No. Is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening? I don’t see anything we can do, except maybe change the jury instruction, but that’s about it.”

Prosecutors had linked Tellis to Chambers based on cellphone evidence which placed the two together on the night of her death. During day two of the trial, firefighters testified that when they questioned Chambers about who had set her on fire, she uttered the name “Eric.”

Dr. William Hickerson of Memphis combatted these statements and said that Chambers would not have been able to speak clearly due to the damage that was done to her throat by the fire.

Champion stated that Tellis is currently in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

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