Countdown starts, media in town now for murder trial

Published 11:38 am Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Countdown starts, media in town now for murder trial


By Rupert Howell
Although preparations for the highly publicized Tellis trial are going as planned, City Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps expects it to be hectic around the courthouse between now and the October 9 trial in Batesville.
Quinton Tellis is accused in the December 2014 death of Jessica Chambers where she was found near death with burns on 98 percent of her body. She died a short time later after being transferred to a trauma center in Memphis.
Phelps said much of the work to the courthouse was being done in between court sessions.
Meanwhile prosecutors are spending the remaining days until October 9 working on the Tellis trial, District Attorney John Champion said Monday.
“It’s just two weeks until the Tellis trial begins,” he said.
In her position as Clerk of the Court, Phelps is in charge of feeding, housing and logistics of the jurors who will be selected from Pike County in extreme southern Mississippi. They will be selected, loaded into vans and brought to Panola County to begin hearing the trial that could last for two weeks.
Lodging has been secured and jurors will be fed in the jury room and board room so local vendors won’t have to make special arrangements to keep them separate from routine customers.
Phelps also said the courtroom would be slightly rearranged to accommodate camera coverage and to display evidence to be presented during trial. A pool, or representative, camera will feed all others with NBC operating the pool camera inside the courtroom. A tent will be set up outside for media to congregate.
Panola County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of security at the courthouse and Sheriff Department Colonel Barry Thompson told supervisors earlier the City of Batesville Police Department had offered their assistance. Although security plans were not discussed in public, Thompson said at the time the courthouse activity would continue as close to normal as possible.
National media has already been in the area filming and interviewing and all regional media from Memphis TV stations are carrying news reports of the upcoming trial with those news stations’ marked vehicles being spotted regularly at the courthouse and in the area.
The trial is thought to bring the most attention to the Batesville Courthouse since the Byron De La Beckwith jury selection in 1994 when the avowed racist was convicted in Hinds County by the Panola County jury of murdering Medgar Evers.
The heinous crime of Jessica’s murder caught the attention of the nation and required local and sate investigators to work with federal investigators who used their resources to finally make a case and file charges.
District Attorney Champion along with assistant Jay Hale will try the case in front of Circuit Judge Gerald Chatham. Jackson attorney Alton Peterson is representing Tellis.

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