Mistrial declared following hung jury in Jessica Chambers trial

Jessica Chambers' family devastated after judge declares mistrial
Published: Oct. 16, 2017 at 10:26 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 17, 2017 at 4:30 AM CDT
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Jessica Chambers (Source: WMC Action News 5 archives)
Jessica Chambers (Source: WMC Action News 5 archives)

PANOLA CO, MS (WMC) - No verdict was reached in the trial of Quinton Tellis, who is accused in the 2014 murder of 19-year-old Jessica Chambers.

After three failed attempts (including one in which the judge read a 'not guilty' verdict), the jury decided it could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The jury first returned a verdict at 1:40 p.m. The judge asked the jury if the verdict was unanimous, to which the jury replied, 'Yes.' But, one juror spoke up and said the verdict was not unanimous.

The jury was sent back into deliberations.

At 2 p.m., the jury returned a unanimous verdict--or so everyone thought. The jury turned in a 'not guilty' verdict to the judge, but when the judge asked each juror individually how they voted, many of them said they voted guilty.

The jury deliberated again until 2:45 p.m., but when the jury returned to court, it still did not have a verdict. The judge (for a fourth time) read instructions for reaching a verdict to the jury. He then sent the jury back into the deliberation room.

Just after 4 p.m. the jury returned with a written statement that all members of the jury could not agree on a verdict. After discussing this with the prosecution and defense teams, the judge declared a mistrial.

Jessica Chambers' father said he felt sick about the verdict. The rest of the Chambers family declined to comment on Monday's events.

After the mistrial, District Attorney John Champion vowed to try the case again.

"Absolutely, we will retry this case," he said.

Champion said he felt he and his team put forward a strong case. He said he thought his expert witnesses explained why first responders heard Chambers say Eric killed her. He said he also thought the phone data was very strong.

"What are the chances that in four or less minutes, she leaves Quinton Tellis' house and gets with somebody else?" Champion said. "If you look at this case, none of our facts were contradicted. They didn't produce any experts to contradict our phone data."

Champion said he, the judge, and the defense team agreed they've never seen the type of confusion from a jury that they saw Monday.

"We have over 100 years of legal experience among us, and we've never seen anything like we saw today," Champion said.

"I've never seen that happen before. I've been practicing for 19 years...and I've never seen it happen before. It's very unusual," Tellis' attorney Alton Peterson said.

Champion said he and his team will go over how the case went, work to sure up any loose ends, and get ready for the next trial.

"I have no regrets. We put the same case on here that we produced for the grand jury," Champion said. "We felt that we put on a very compelling case to convict him. Obviously seven people believed us anyway."

According to Champion, seven jurors voted guilty and five voted not guilty.

Tellis' family members said they were relieved the jury did not convict Quinton.

"They didn't have any evidence on him anyway," Quinton's niece, Laniqua Williams, said.

Tellis' family members said they can only imagine how horrible this whole situation is for the Chambers family. They said while they are relieved with Monday's results, they will continue to seek justice for Jessica Chambers--because they believe her killer remains at large.

"My heart goes out to them, it always has gone out to them," Tellis' mother, Rebecca, said. "I want justice served for them, but I don't want my son guilty for a crime that he didn't take, that he didn't do. But, I also want justice for them just as well. My heart goes out to them."

In addition to facing another possible trial for killing Jessica, Tellis faces a trial for the death of another woman in Louisiana.

Not long after Chambers was killed, Tellis went to Monroe, Louisiana. Investigators there say he tortured and killed an exchange student in Monroe who used to be his pen pal.

There's no word on when he will go to trial for the Louisiana killing. Champion said he hopes to retry the Chambers case as early as June 2018.

Miss any of the trial? Read daily recaps and watch testimony below:

Day 1: Opening statements conclude, Jessica Chambers' mom takes the stand

Day 2: First responders testify to hearing Jessica Chambers say 'Eric' burned her

Day 3: Chambers' burn injuries, suspect's phone in spotlight

Day 4: Interrogation video raises doubt about Tellis' alibi

Day 5: Deleted texts show Jessica Chambers denied Tellis sex

Day 6: Closing arguments cap trial

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