Mistrial declared in Jessica Chambers murder case

by: Leah Beth Bolton Updated:

A mistrial was declared in the Jessica Chamber murder trial after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

District Attorney John Champion told FOX13 they do plan on retrying the case.

WATCH: Quinton Tellis' mother, niece react to mistrial decision

The scene in the courtroom Monday was filled with chaotic twists and turns.

After two mishaps earlier in the afternoon, the jury continued to deliberate. Ultimately, the jurors decided they could not reach a unanimous decision.

In an afternoon full of twists and turns, the jurors initially returned to the courtroom around 1:40 p.m. to announce a verdict. But when asked if all jurors were in agreement, the jury foreman told the judge no. They were sent back to continue deliberations.


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Shortly after 2 p.m., the jury came back a second time and said a verdict had been reached. It was initially announced that Quinton Tellis was found not guilty, but the jurors did not agree on that verdict when individually asked by the judge. 

WATCH: Legal expert weighs in on Jessica Chambers case outcome

The judge called the jury back a third time to read further instructions before sending them back again just before 3 p.m. 

Jessica Chambers Murder Trial: Minute-by-minute updates

When the judge polled the jury, he identified each of them by name out loud. Jurors' identities are supposed to remain anonymous until a trial's completion. 

The judge sent them back again.

The jurors returned a final time around 4 p.m. At that point, they informed the judge that a unanimous decision regarding Quinton Tellis' charges could not be made.

Read background on the case, including every day's court testimony, below.


The murder trial for 19-year-old Jessica Chambers is approaching an end.

Chambers was burned alive on a back road in Panola County in December 2014. Quinton Tellis is charged in her death. 

Closing arguments came on day 6. You can watch the courtroom videos below.

Following closing arguments, the jury began deliberations. After four and a half hours, the judge called court back to order and granted a recess until 9 a.m. on Monday.

Day 6, Part 1:

Day 6, Part 2:


Day five of the Jessica Chambers murder trial started much the same as Day one, with questions pertaining to the teens 'dying declaration.'

Read a full recap of day 5 below the videos.

Day 5, Part 1:

Day 5, Part 2:

Day 5, Part 3:

First responders said Chambers uttered the name Eric, or something similar when she was found in December of 2014. Defense attorney Alton Peterson asked MBI agent Tim Douglas if this may have been a false declaration? Agent Douglas said there was no doubt, Chambers mentioned the name. Agent Douglas said this led him to request from state investigators those named 'Eric' or 'Derrick' living in Panola County. It produced no more than 100 Mississippi men, detectives looked into. One man who stood out was registered sex offender Derrick Holmes, but Agent Douglas said his alibi that fateful day checked out.

"He was at the house," MBI Agent Tim Douglas said.  "His mother had a medical issue and I'm telling you Mr. Peterson, he was at the house rubbing his mother's feet at the time Jessica was burning in her vehicle."

For months Agent Douglas said Quinton Tellis, the man charged with the teens murder, was on the radar of detectives.

"Isn't it true that Mr. Tellis was actually eliminated initially?" defense attorney Alton Peterson asked.

"No, that is not correct," Agent Douglas responded.

Instead, Agent Douglas said Tellis remained a person of discussion.

"Every month, every other week or so, we discussed Quinton Tellis," Agent Douglas said. 

The jury saw and heard more interrogation video with Tellis admitting he was with Chambers the morning before she died.  But it was not only what Tellis said, but what he did that convinced detectives he was being untruthful.

"Every time Quinton got ready to lie, he did a stretch," Agent Douglas demonstrated.  "He tried to get his story together and told his lie."

Something else that set in motion back-and-forth disagreements between Agent Douglas and the defense team was Tellis' struggle to recall exactly what happened the day Chambers was killed. Tellis' lawyer said the reason he could not detail more, was because it was not a meaningful day for him--as the defense argues Tellis was not the one responsible for killing 19-year-old Jessica Chambers.

Day 4, Part 1:

Day 4, Part 2:

Day 4, Part 3: 

Day 4, Part 4: 

During Day 4 of the trial, jurors heard from FBI and MBI agents and other law enforcement. 

They talked about examining phone records that reportedly showed suspect, Quinton Tellis, and Jessica Chambers in the same area of Batesville at the same time the day she died. 

Jurors also watched several interrogation videos that allowed many to hear Tellis' voice for the first time ever. In those videos, investigators questioned Tellis about text messages he sent to Chambers and about the timeline of the night she died. 

Videos from two interrogations in November, 2015 and one from January, 2016 were shown. 

Day 3, Part 1:

Day 3, Part 2: 

Day 3, Part 3: 

Day 3 began with the judge explaining that jurors would be taken on a "field trip." They were bused to the crime scene and other locations connected to the case. 

No streaming or electronics were allowed during that time.  

The day also included testimony from medical officials and doctors who discussed the extent of Jessica Chambers' burns and injuries. 

The jury was shown graphic images of the burns. The defense questioned how well she would have been able to speak and be understood. 

Investigators also said they interviewed around 15 people named "Eric," due in part to that being the name Jessica Chambers gave them before dying. They said no Eric was developed as a viable suspect. 

Day 2, Part 1:

Day 2, Part 2:

Day 2 consisted of testimony almost entirely comprised of first responders who were called to the scene of the fire. 

Some became emotional on the stand describing Jessica Chambers' appearance. Several described her as looking like a "zombie" and shared graphic details about her burn injuries. 

Almost all of the witnesses said Jessica Chambers told them someone named "Eric" or "Derek" had set her on fire. Others said she was very difficult to hear. 

The man who found Jessica Chambers' car keys not far from the scene also testified. Quinton Tellis' DNA was reportedly found on those keys, the prosecution says. 

Court wrapped up around 4:45 p.m. 

Thursday, the jury will be taken on a "field trip" to view the crime scene and different areas reportedly related to the investigation. 

Day 1:

Opening statements were given and the first witnesses took the stand in the Jessica Chambers murder trial. 

Witnesses included Chambers' mother, Lisa, her best friend, Kesha Myers, and first responders. 

Former Courtland Fire Chief Cole Haley became very emotional on the stand, crying as he described the extent of Chambers' injuries when he found her burned on the side of the road. 

The defense focussed in on statments made by first responders that Chambers stated on the scene that someone named "Eric" had set her on fire. 

The prosecution insisted that Tellis is the one responsible, despite her allegedly saying another name. 

Court wrapped around 5:30 p.m. It will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday. 


BACKGROUND:

Quinton Tellis is charged with capital murder in the commission of another crime, third-degree arson. Due to three previous felony charges, the indictment charged Tellis as a habitual offender. 

Jury selection wrapped up Monday in Pike County. 


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Tellis was serving time in Ouachita Parish Jail in Monroe, Louisiana, at the time of his indictment in Chamber's murder last year, where he was being held on charges connected to the brutal stabbing death of 34-year-old Meing-Chen "Mandy" Hsiao.

Tellis pleaded guilty to the unauthorized use of her credit card and was sentenced to 10 years in May 2016. He was later charged in her death as well, but has yet to stand trial. 

About 35 witnesses, including the firefighters and paramedics who spoke to Chambers on the scene of the fire, are expected to testify.

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