The man accused of setting Jessica Chambers on fire and killing her in the small town of Courtland, Mississippi, is appealing a judge’s ruling that no prosecutorial misconduct that prejudiced the defendant occurred.
Quinton Tellis’ counsel last week filed an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court requesting justices override a ruling from Judge Gerald Chatham that said he heard no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct from District Attorney John Champion that would prejudice the Tellis retrial. Additionally he said it is not proper for him to determine any discipline if any misconduct did occur on the part of the DA's office.
The petition was “filed to ensure that the Defendant Tellis receives a fair and impartial trial without interference from efforts on the part of the prosecution to impede justice,” according to court documents filed by attorney Darla Palmer and obtained by Oxygen.com. In the appeal, the defense suggests that the standard is not prejudice to Tellis but whether the administration of justice is thwarted by the DA's conduct.
Tellis was tried for the murder of 19-year-old Chambers last year, but that case ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors are trying Tellis again for murder, and he is set for a re-trial on September 24.
Oxygen’s upcoming docu-series “Unspeakable Crime: The Murder of Jessica Chambers” is set to give a fresh look at the first trial.
“Defendant Tellis contends that he should not have been required by the court to show prejudice to him, individually, at this stage of trial,” the appeal reads. “The court should have been weighing whether prosecutorial misconduct on the part of District Attorney Champion had somehow infringed on the standard of ensuring a fair and impartial trial for defendant Tellis and the administration of justice.”
In the petition, Tellis’ counsel also says that Champion allegedly tried to persuade Jalen Asir Matthews Caudle, another client of Palmer’s, who is charged with capital murder, to testify that Chambers used to call Tellis “Eric.” This is crucial considering when emergency personnel discovered Chambers’ at the scene, some of her last words before she died were, “Eric did it.”
Further, in a motion filed in July, Palmer had requested that Champion be recused from the case and that criminal contempt be imposed against him.
Champion has denied threatening or intimidating Caudle. “The last thing I want to do is influence somebody on what to say,” he said during a July hearing.