Prosecutor denies wrongdoing, says he never believed detainee

JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi prosecutor on Monday denied that he tried to put words in the mouth of a jailhouse snitch in a high-profile case.

District Attorney John Champion, who testify in an oral hearing where a lawyer tried to get him thrown out of the murder of Quinton Tellis, said an inmate freely offered him the evidence that it is possible a more definitive link to the 2014 burning death of Jessica Chambers.

But Champion told Circuit Judge Gerald Chapman, he believed the story that Jalen Caudle told him was a lie aimed at winning leniency in Caudle private capital murder in DeSoto County. The Horn Lake resident was charged in connection with the March 2017 shooting in Southaven, and is also charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery and illegal gang activity.

“I don’t think for a second that Quinton would have revealed all these things to a young boy,” Champion testified in a hearing in Sardis over allegations he broke the rules of the court. The hearing that is sent over the internet by multiple tv stations.

Champion said that he is not violating the rules of the court by talking with Caudle without his lawyer, because he was there to talk with Caudle as a witness against Tellis.

Champion’s story stands in contrast to testimony by Caudle and claims of the lawyers for both him and Tellis in non-related cases. The two were housed in the same area of the DeSoto County jail for a period of time, although Tellis would have killed Rooms in Panola County.

Prosecutors say Tellis set Chambers and her car on fire on a rural back road near Courtland on the night of Dec. 6, 2014. Firefighters and police officers testified at the first trial that they heard Chambers say “Eric” or “Derek” attacked her, even though prosecutors presented testimony that Chambers was so burnt that they have not been able to properly pronounce words. Champion said that other evidence led to Tellis, but the defendant’s lawyers made Chambers’ words from the middle of their case.

“He said he wanted me on the stand and testify that when Q first met Jessica, she called him Eric,” testified Caudle, call Tellis by his first.

Caudle said that he felt as the Champion tried to intimidate him.

“There was not too much, he told me other than how he could lower my cost if I testified against Q,” the prisoner testified, saying Champion promised “he would make me a lesser cost that would get me home a lot faster.”

Lawyer Alton Peterson also submitted text messages Caudle sent by means of a prison system urgently telling his father to get defense lawyer Darla Palmer.

Tellis the first trial ended in a hung jury and he is scheduled to be retired in September.

Even Champion agreed Caudle declaration would be an important piece of evidence if true.

“As much as I would want it to be true, I do not believe that that is the case,” Champion said.

Champion said that he will meet with a Caudle in April after the attorney for another man sentenced for sexual battery “begged” his own lawyer to go to Champion with statements about Rooms call Tellis “Eric.” Champion said.

Chambers was found walking on the road to see if a “zombie”, according to the testimonies. She had third-degree burns on more than 90 percent of her body when she died in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Tellis faces another murder charge in Louisiana, where he is accused in the torture death of Opinion-Chen Hsiao, a 34-year-old Taiwanese student of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.


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