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BATESVILLE, Miss. —A judge has ordered the Jessica Chambers jury to continue their deliberations after they said they have been unable to reach an unanimous verdict.
After sitting through days of testimony, the jury officially began deliberating a verdict Sunday evening and continued for several hours before recessing for the night.
They began deliberating again Monday morning at 9 a.m.
Before testimony began, defense attorney Darla Palmer asked for an acquittal saying, “There’s zero evidence that’s been offered by the state that would place Quinton Tellis at the scene of the crime.” The judge overruled that motion.
The first witness to testify was a woman who was a jailer with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department the night Jessica Chambers was set on fire. She says she felt harassed by law enforcement with how they talked to her about who she was on the phone with that night. Her son’s name is Eric and he worked at Taco Bell.
She says law enforcement tried to talk to her son at school about it, but he wasn’t there. They then went to her house. She took her son to the Sheriff’s Department and they questioned him without her in the room. “Since then, my son just has a thing with law enforcement.”
The second witness to testify was a man who knew Chambers and met with her the morning of the day she died. He says a couple of days later, law enforcement took him into custody. He said when he pulled into a parking lot, they pulled guns on him and pulled him out of a car. He says they showed surveillance video of them together, took a swab for DNA and released him. He says he felt harassed.
The third witness to take the stand was Quinton Tellis’ sister. She says she was with Tellis’ friend, ‘Big Mike’ in Courtland the night Chambers died. Tellis said in his early interrogations he borrowed ‘Big Mike’s’ car that night, which ‘Big Mike’ said wasn’t true because he was in Nashville that night.
The defense rested after this witness.
A supporter of Tellis was removed from the courtroom at one point during the day for yelling. It was not clear what she said. “Outbursts and comments will not be tolerated in my court,” says the judge.
The state then brought in a rebuttal witness who testified he was with ‘Big Mike’ in Nashville the evening Chambers was set on fire.
The judge read the jury instructions before breaking for an early lunch. In last year’s trial, the jury struggled with the need for a unanimous verdict and gave a false verdict because of it.
The state started closing arguments by talking about the night of the scene, how first responders could have never prepared for what they saw that night and how loud of a scene it was. The state argued that while Chambers wanted to communicate with first responders, she physically couldn’t due to her injuries.
He says the first firefighter on the scene heard Chambers make a noise that he interpreted as “Eric.” He says that first responder turned around and told others on scene that’s what he heard. He says the state thoroughly investigated all of the Erics or Dereks with any connection to the victim.
The state broke down the timeline of the victim’s final day. They say Tellis told them he found out about the fire at the gas station. “He had absolutely zero reaction to learning Jessica Chambers had been set on fire…[because] he already knew she’d been set on fire,” said the prosecutor.
After about 30 minutes, the state finished their closing argument.
The defense then began theirs and said the facts are Chambers walked and talked the night she died. She told first responders who hurt her: Eric or Derek. Defense attorney Darla Palmer mentioned how several kneeled down and heard Chambers say the names.
Palmer said the active search for Eric or Derek never happened. When mentioning the interrogation videos, they say he was off track with details because it was almost a year later. The defense says law enforcement harassed people of interest or suspects in the case. “They couldn’t find the person who committed this atrocious crime,” the defense attorney said. He said the state started working backwards and came up with a picture to make Tellis fit the crime.
The state went back up after the defense made their closing statements. District Attorney John Champion said there hasn’t been one word of testimony discrediting what the experts said on the stand. The jury then officially began deliberating the verdict around 2:40 p.m.
Quinton Tellis is accused of killing Jessica Chambers in 2014. Tellis’ 2017 trial on capital murder charges ended in a hung jury.
This trial is expected to last about a week. Prosecutors say cell phone locations, video, DNA on a keychain and Tellis’ statements link him to Chambers’ death.
The defense emphasizes multiple emergency workers heard the dying Chambers say someone named “Eric” or “Derek” attacked her.
Tellis faces another murder indictment in 2015′s death of Meing-Chen Hsiao in Monroe, Louisiana.
WREG will be streaming the proceedings online and on our Facebook page when the court proceedings begin at 9 a.m. Bridget Chapman will also be in the courtroom with live updates.