Still no verdict in Burrell Ellis trial despite judge's plea - CBS46 News

Still no verdict in Burrell Ellis trial despite judge's plea

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Despite the judge's urging, jurors in the Burrell Ellis corruption trial wrapped up a tenth day of deliberations Monday without reaching a verdict.

The suspended DeKalb County CEO is accused of strong arming vendors to make political contributions or lose county contracts.

Judge Courtney Johnson issued what is known as the Allen charge. It is a final plea to jurors to set aside their differences and reach a verdict.

"It is the law that a unanimous verdict is required. While this verdict must be the conclusion of each juror, not a mere acquiescence of the jurors in order to reach an agreement, it is nevertheless necessary for all of the jurors to examine the issues and questions submitted to them with candor and fairness and with the proper regard for and deference to the opinion of each other," the charge reads in part.

Monday morning, the jury sent Johnson a note that said they were still deadlocked on the 13 charges Ellis faces. Jurors later sent another note, telling the court they could not reach a verdict on any of the counts.

Legal experts said the Allen charge can get jurors to break their deadlock.

"It's a last-ditch effort to get them to go back there, sort of clean slate and maybe start over their deliberations," said Jill Polster, a former DeKalb County prosecutor who is now a defense attorney. "It sort of reminds them to listen to their fellow jurors, go back with an open mind and review the evidence."

Polster and others said judges have to use careful discretion in issuing the Allen charge as it can be viewed as coercion and become the grounds for an appeal.

"Generally, in my 700 trials, when a judge gives an Allen Charge, defense attorneys call it a 'dynamite charge' because it blows up in a defendant's face," said Jackie Patterson, a defense attorney who has predicted a mistrial. "It forces a jury, in most cases, to reach a verdict and that verdict sometimes ends up being guilty."

The judge sent jurors back to the jury room after lunch, but just before 5 p.m. they went home for the day.

"Wow, to have a jury out 10 days, I'm sure the attorneys on both sides and Mr. Ellis are on the edge of their seats," said Polster. "It's excruciating to have a jury out for two hours. I would imagine everybody's exhausted."

Day 11 of deliberations begins Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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