12:15 p.m. — With tensions and personality conflicts increasing, Judge Courtney Johnson sent the jurors hearing the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis home for the afternoon, giving them time to calm down and rest but telling them to be back at 9 a.m. Friday.
“I want you all to go home and take a breather get some rest. Relax a little bit. I understand this is a stressful situation,” Johnson said.
Four jurors nodded and one had obviously been crying.
“It appears we are having some pretty significant conflict back there (and it) has escalated from the issue we had this morning,” Johnson told attorneys.
The jurors were called into the courtroom just after noon because the jury had sent out a note, complaining about personality conflicts and the leadership of the elected foreperson.
In their note, they wrote the “foreman cannot lead,” Johnson said.
With the jurors seated in the box, Johnson told them they were free to select a new foreperson.
“The expectation of the court…is that you would take this responsibility very seriously and will conduct yourselves as adults. You are to continue to cooperate and discuss the case,” Johnson said.
By the judge’s calculations, actual deliberations have totaled about nine hours though they have been in the jury room together for about 12 hours over the four days.
“There has been a lot of time and effort put into getting this case to this point,” Johnson told the jurors. “You all have a duty and I expect you all to act accordingly.”
10:27 a.m. — Deliberations in suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’ trial are apparently getting tense.
One juror told a deputy that the others were not including her in discussions and when she spoke up “they would sort of talk over her or get upset,” Judge Courtney Johnson relayed to the prosecuting and defense attorneys.
“It just seems like it’s beginning to get a little tense in there with the time they’ve been in there in that room,” Johnson said, suggesting that the jury be given a 20-minute break.
She said the jury had been reluctant to take breaks.
According to Johnson, juror No. 21 insisted that she could still work with others on the panel and she did not need the judge to intervene.
The jury began its work at 9:11 a.m. By the time they started, they had already deliberated about 12 hours over three days. Thursday is their fourth day.
9:25 a.m. — The jury deciding the public corruption case against suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis has started its fourth day of deliberations.
By the time they started Thursday morning, the jurors had deliberated a total of 12 hours over three days. Thursday makes the fourth day they have been locked in the jury room.
Ellis is accused in 13 counts of using his office to strong-arm vendors into helping him retire the debt on his 2012 re-election campaign. Though he won a second term handily in the summer Democratic Primary — there was no Republican candidate — he still owed about $200,000 on his million-dollar campaign.
Ellis is charged with extortion, theft by taking, perjury, bribery and using government employees to work on a political campaign. The most serious charge carries a 20-year prison sentence.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.