• Jurors deadlocked for 3rd time in Burrell Ellis corruption case

    By: Erica Byfield

    Updated:

    DEKALB COUNTY, Ga - For the third time, jurors deliberating the fate of DeKalb County's former top boss told a judge they are deadlocked.

    The announcement came on the jurors' 10th day of deliberations in Burrell Ellis' corruption case.

    Channel 2's Erica Byfield broke the latest development during Channel 2 Action News at Noon.

    DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson sent the jurors a note asking if they had been able to reach a verdict on any of the counts; they responded with a single word, "No."

    After lunch, Judge Johnson gave them an "Allen Charge." On occasion it is referred to as the "Dynamite Charge."

    "Defense attorneys call it a Dynamite Charge because it blows up in a defendant’s face because it forces a jury, in most cases, to reach a verdict and sometimes that verdict ends up being guilty," said defense attorney Jackie Patterson.

    Patterson has no ties to the trial.

    The Allen Charge includes specific language to urge jurors to set aside any personal differences, but to rely solely on the facts and deliberate.

    "You should lay aside all opinion and should bear in mind that the jury room is no place for taking up and maintaining in the spirit of controversy on either side of the cause," Judge Johnson read aloud.

    Ellis did not react as the judge relayed the charge to the jury. He's accused of shaking down vendors for campaign cash.

    Patterson thinks the case will end in a mistrial and he's convinced since the jury has not reached a verdict on any of the counts eventually the judge will have to agree.

    "If they say, 'We can still not reach a verdict,' I'm confident the judge will do the right thing, the lawful thing and grant a mistrial," Patterson said.

    Judge Johnson did not say how much longer she'll push them to deliberate, only that they must.

    Another legal expert told Channel 2 Action News judges use the Allen Charge as a last resort.

    "They are certainly in a last-resort posture here. Everybody wants a verdict," attorney Jill Polster said.

    Last January, agents took computers and other evidence from Ellis’ Stone Mountain home. Ellis later held a news conference to address the search. He said he has done nothing wrong and does not know why his home was raided.

    Investigators said they believe Ellis may have knowledge about employees fired from Watershed Management for taking bribes as well as bid-rigging for county contracts.

    Ellis is facing a total of 13 counts.

    If convicted on all counts, he faces nearly 20 years behind bars.

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