At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst. – Aristotle
The Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger reported yesterday that
A mistrial was declared Monday in the murder case surrounding the 2014 burning death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers after the jury came back with a not guilty verdict before deciding they were hopelessly deadlocked. Quinton Tellis, the man accused of burning the Panola County resident to death, will likely face a new trial following the decision, continuing what has been an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved for almost three years.
Tellis, 29, who pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the Dec. 6, 2014, burning death of Chambers, did not take the stand during the trial that started Oct. 9. He could have faced life in prison without parole if convicted.
Circuit Judge Gerald Chatham declared a mistrial Monday afternoon. District Attorney John Champion said the prosecution will try the case again, but at this point a timeframe is not clear, nor is from where the jury will be drawn. The jury in this trial was drawn from Pike County after extensive media coverage of the case.
Meanwhile, Chambers’ family filled up the center rows of the courtroom, where they have been every day since the case began. Family and friends of Tellis filled the right side.
The deadlock came from a misunderstanding of the jury instructions, officials said. The instructions said that a guilty verdict had to be unanimous, but didn’t directly say that about a not guilty verdict. It appeared the jury thought since they couldn’t unanimously decide that Tellis was guilty, that made him not guilty.
“You take the range of emotions that occurred in that short amount of time,” Champion said. “We felt like it was probably a misinterpretation of a jury instruction, so we added to one of the jury instructions to make it more simplistic.”
The emotional toll was felt strongly by both sides.
“I can’t say what Quinton felt but the moment you’re in the midst of a week trial and the jury comes back and says, ‘We find the defendant not guilty,’ and there’s a great sense of relief there,” said defense attorney Alton Peterson. “Then, you find out that’s not valid and is the result of confusion in the jury box. I don’t know how to describe that.”
Among Judge Gerald Chatham, prosecutors Champion and Jay Hale, and defense attorneys Peterson and Darla Palmer, there are more than 100 years of legal experience. They’d never seen anything like a jury that tried to return a verdict twice before deadlocking.
The prosecution felt throughout the week that they had a strong case even in the face of the fact that first responders said that Chambers told them someone named Eric set her on fire. Their last two witnesses, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations Detective Tim Douglas and U.S. Attorney’s office Intelligence Analyst Paul Rowlett, were able to add visuals to the prosecution’s presentation that turned the tide in the opinion of many watching the case.
Jury deliberations began around 4 p.m. Sunday and continued until about 8:30 p.m. in the capital murder trial. The jury reconvened at 9 a.m. Monday to continue deliberations. The court was told the jury came up with the verdict around 1:30 p.m. after nearly eight hours of deliberations.
However, when Chatham brought the jury back into court and asked them if they all agreed with the decision, one juror said he did not. The judge then went into chambers with the attorneys. A few minutes later, the judge came back to court and read the specific jury instruction that states all 12 members must be unanimous in the verdict. Then the jury was sent back to continue deliberations at 1:50 p.m.
After that, the jury came back saying they had reached a verdict. However, the decision wasn’t unanimous. The verdict they reached was not guilty but after Chatham polled the jurors, it was clear the decision was split. The jury was sent back again to continue deliberations around 2:15 p.m. or so.
They came back with the deadlock around 4 p.m.
The Chambers family quickly exited the courtroom, without comment.
Rebecca Tellis, Quinton Tellis’ mother, said she’s just happy he wasn’t convicted and that she’s leaning on her faith.
“They won’t let me talk to him, but my son is fine. He’s fine I could see it in his eyes. If he’s fine, I’m fine,” she said. “No matter what’s going on, God’s still going to have the say so at the last end.”
Rebecca Tellis also had a message for Chambers’ family. She said she still wants Jessica’s killer found and brought to justice.
“My heart goes out for them, too,” she said. “I don’t want my son guilty for a crime I know he didn’t do. But my heart goes out to them.”
At this point it’s unclear if Tellis goes back to Louisiana, where he’s serving time for a conviction of using the credit cards of a woman in whose death he also faces murder charges. Authorities said it’s too early to know what the timeline will look like between Mississippi and Louisiana as the two cases move forward.
So, justice has been delayed.
“Confusion in the jury box”, Huh?
Forgive my bluntness, but I am betting that it was purposeful confusion and that the deadlock was due to a disagreement along racial lines.
As I wrote recently, Mississippi has had a problem for several years now with an influx of gangs from up north, such as the Gangster Disciples, coming into both the Metropolitan Areas, such as Jackson, and the smaller cities, such as Clarksdale.
Just as it is with every other area that these parasites infest, crime begins to take over, ranging from drug dealing to violent crimes like the murder of Jessica Chambers.
Poor young Jessica, from all reports, was a known Marijuana dealer.
However, that was no excuse for the horrible tortuous death that she endured at the hands of a monster.
From what we know about Tellis, the career criminal accused of her murder, this is not his first rodeo.
He still faces a separate trial in Louisiana for murder, as well, where he is already presently serving time.
Per the local Fox Affiliate in Memphis in a story posted on February 25, 2016…
Monroe police told FOX13 Tellis is the only suspect in the killing of Ming-Chen Hsiao, an exchange student at the University of Louisiana Monroe.
On the school’s campus, friends called the 34-year-old murder victim ‘Mandy’ for short. She had just graduated with a master’s in education and was seeking employment.
“She was very active on campus. She was very vocal in her beliefs and she would let people know about that. She enjoyed life,” a university administrator told FOX13.
“The people who know her say she was a nice person,” student Darrius Jones added. “She was a sweet girl. She never really bothered anybody.”
When police found her stabbed to death in July, investigators caught Quinton Tellis with her debit card. Witnesses had placed him at her apartment just days before her murder.
“We can place him at the apartment shortly before the murder. And with the victim, a day or two before the murder,” Detective Duane Cookson of the Monroe Police Department said.
Louisiana investigators said Mandy rode her bike and was friendly to the local children. One of the kids was the seven-year-old stepson of Quinton Tellis.
“Mandy would ride up and down the street. She invited the children in to get some candy one time, and he became acquainted with in that manner,” Detective Cookson said.
Tellis is a suspect in the murder, but he not charged because police need more physical evidence.
“It’s a circumstantial evidence case, and Mississippi I understand has DNA and more physical evidence,” Veteran criminal prosecutor Neil Johnson told FOX13.
Batesville District Attorney John Champion told FOX13 he would not deny what Johnson said about DNA.
Panola County will have to wait until after Tellis’ trial in May before they can extradite him back to Mississippi. The Police Chief told FOX13 if Tellis is convicted in either state, he could face life in prison.
“Quinten Tellis will not harm to any citizen outside of prison again,” Monroe Police Chief Quinten Holmes.
Since then, Tellis was charged with that young girls murder, also, as referred to earlier in this post.
I hope that trial procedes swiftly and smoothly in the case of “Mandy” and I hope that Mississippi retries Tellis for the murder of Jessica, as well.
Animals like this “suspected” murderer are not just a burden on society, they are a plague upon it.
Neither of these young women deserved the fate bestowed upon them.
It remains up to the citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi, if they decide on a retrial, to make sure that justice is served.
Until He Comes,