Jury in Burrell Ellis trial sent home early as tensions rise - CBS46 News

Jury in Burrell Ellis trial sent home early as tensions rise

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DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

The judge in the Burrell Ellis corruption trial sent jurors home early on Thursday as tensions among them grew on their fourth day of deliberations.

The suspended DeKalb County CEO is accused of threatening vendors and saying they would lose county contracts if they refused to contribute to his re-election campaign.

Jurors sent Judge Courtney Johnson a note at 10:30 a.m. that said a juror was upset because the others were talking over her and not including her in the discussion.

"It just seems like it's probably getting a little tense in there with the time, how long they've been together in that room," said Johnson, who noted the jury has deliberated approximately nine hours over four days.

Johnson gave the jury a break but when they returned just after noon they sent a second note to the judge.

"We are all very passionate about our opinions and have not been able to go over several counts in the indictment," said the note. "Some jurors feel we can't go forward."

The judge noted two jurors were having a significant conflict that had escalated. Johnson then sent the jurors home. She told jurors to get some rest and clear their heads.

"It's extremely stressful," said Parag Shah, a former public defender who is now a defense attorney. "It's stressful because every juror in a criminal case knows that their decision may send a man or a woman to prison."

Shah said the squabbling among jurors indicates they cannot agree on the 13 charges Ellis faces and that does not bode well for the prosecution.

"If I'm (District Attorney) Robert James, I'm sweating bullets," said Shah. "If I was DeKalb County, the DA's office, I wouldn't want a hung jury. Anytime you have cases like this is makes or breaks people. So there's a lot on the line."

Jurors will resume deliberations Friday morning.

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