Quinton Tellis is shown during his retrial in Batesville, Mississippi on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. Tellis is charged with the burning of the 19-year-old Jessica Chambers to death, almost three years ago, on Dec. 6, 2014. Tellis has pleaded not guilty to the murder./(Mark Weber/The Commercial appeal via AP, Pool)
BATESVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi judges on Sunday started deliberations over the fate of a man accused of murder after a second trial over the allegations that he was a woman on fire in 2014.
The case, tried in Batesville for jurors from a another country, be closed after six days of testimony in the death of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers.
Jurors could not reach a verdict in the 29-year-old suspect Quinton Tellis’ first trial last year. The event, beginning with a smoldering and mortally wounded, and Rooms to stumble away from her burning car on the edge of the north Mississippi hamlet of Courtland, has caught wide attention.
Just as in the first trial, the closing arguments marked the judges’ choice. Prosecutors say evidence links Tellis to Chambers’ death, and he lied to investigators. The defense highlighted testimony by social workers that they heard a dying Chambers says someone with the name Eric attacked her and the prosecutors came up with a complex theory that makes Tellis as a “supercriminal.”
“I believe that we have proven to be element that is necessary and I suggest you have we proven all the elements required to prove Quinton Tellis is guilty of capital murder beyond a reasonable doubt”, Panola County Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale told jurors.
Hale pointed to mobile location data and the monitoring video supports prosecutors’ timeline. They say Tellis and Rooms had sex after returning to Courtland from eating in a fast food restaurant and Rooms’ the car was driven to a roadside. They say Tellis walked home, fall in the Rooms’ keys along the way, catching a ride. Then they say he borrowed a SUV, got a gas can, and returned to Rooms on fire.
“Quinton Tellis went down to the scene of the crime, and lit this child on fire,” Hale said.
Lawyer Alton Peterson told members of the jury that is a complicated scenario, making Tellis to a supercriminal.” He suggested that the researchers, from the leads months after the crime, unfairly aimed at Tellis. He said: there are too many facts not in evidence and the prosecutor to ask jurors to a lot of “jumps” in a timeline “utterly ridiculous.”
“She came back to Quinton Tellis and work them hard in reverse,” Peterson said. “She came with a picture and it was their job to prove themselves to fit into that picture.”
For example, they asked a new witness who does not testify in the first trial — Sherry Flowers — who said they picked up an unknown black male who plaintiffs contend was Tellis.
“Something seems a little suspicious to you, someone turns out to now?” asked lawyer Darla Palmer in the closing arguments. “Seems made for me.”
Defense attorneys also again hit on the testimony by 10 emergency Rooms told them at the place that “Eric” had attacked her. Palmer urged judges discount testimony by two experts that said Chambers could not have formed words well.
“There is reasonable doubt in this case,” Palmer said. “Where is Eric? Where is the actual search of Eric who has done this?”
The prosecutors had hours of interrogation video with Tellis, arguing several changes in his story showed he was lying.
“Quinton Tellis, of course, had not the truth with the investigators,” Hale said. “He lied.”
Defense attorneys, though, said Tellis was questioned 10 months or longer after the incident, and it is not the fault for misremembering some details.
“Did he appear to be unfair?” Palmer asked. “That is the most important thing. No, he kept on talking. He continued to talk about and wanted to give them information about what happened.”
Tellis faces another murder charge in Louisiana in the Monroe stabbing death of Opinion-Chen Hsiao, a former Taiwanese student. He was all of five years in prison in Mississippi on an unrelated burglary conviction and had already pled guilty to unauthorized use of Hsiao the debit card in Louisiana.