Tellis retrial set for Sept.
By Myra Bean
A new date for the second capital murder trial of Quinton Tellis has been set for Monday, Sept. 24.
A jury from Oktibbeha County will be seated on the 24th and the trial will probably start the next day, according to Panola County Circuit Clerk Melissa Meek-Phelps.
Circuit Court Judge Gerald Chatham will preside over the trial at the county courthouse.
Tellis is accused in the Dec. 6, 2014, murder of Jessica Chambers of Courtland. His first trial here ended with a deadlocked jury last year.
Defense attorneys for Tellis are Darla Palmer and Alton Peterson. District Attorney John Champion will again lead the prosecution.
The second trial was originally to be held in June, but was changed because Palmer already has a previous trial set in June.
Chambers died from injuries she received when she was attacked, doused with an accelerant, and set on fire in the Courtland area.
She was alive next to her burning car when first responders found her, and later died from her injuries at a Memphis hospital. More than 98 percent of her body had burns.
Eyewitness, and DNA reports put Tellis in Chambers’ presence during that fateful Saturday. Prosecutors relied heavily on cell phone records that showed the couple’s phones were together less than an hour before a passerby called authorities to report a burning car.
However, eight rescue responders testified at Tellis’ October 2017 trial that Chambers told them “Eric” set her on fire. Although badly injured and dying, all initial responders to the call agreed that Chambers repeated the name “Eric” several times when questioned about her attacker.
Defense attorneys did little to refute the other evidence presented, but repeatedly reminded jurors (chosen from the voter rolls of Pike County and sequestered here) that Tellis’ name cannot be confused with “Eric” and that he had no nicknames that sounded similar.
There was a surprised gasp in the courtroom when the jury reported they could not reach an unanimous decision. A mistrial was declared and prosecutors promised then to bring the charges again.
The hung jury reported they had voted seven guilty, and five not guilty.
“Jurors were then given additional instructions clearly stating that a guilty or not guilty verdict would require all jurors agreeing and if they could not agree, they must report on paper that they were deadlocked,” John Howell reported in the Oct. 17, 2017 Panolian.