Still no verdict in the DeKalb CEO corruption trial

Author: Renee Starzyk, WGCL-TV – CBS 46

DEKALB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) – Jurors wrapped up a third day of deliberations Wednesday in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis without reaching a verdict.

Ellis is accused of threatening vendors they would lose county contracts if they refused to contribute to his 2012 re-election campaign.

Wednesday began with the jury listening to audio tapes replayed of Ellis’ conversations regarding vendors he was angry with for failing to donate.

“Those tapes are so critical, because you’ve got to hear the tone of voice,” said Zahra Karinshak, a former U.S. prosecutor. “As a common sense juror, do I really think this is about respect or this is about twisting somebody’s arm to get money for my campaign? And that’s a hard call.”

Jurors must decide whether Ellis is guilty on 13 charges, including bribery, extortion and perjury.

“My sense is that the prosecutor did a very good job of connecting the dots,” said Philip Holloway, a former Cobb County prosecutor. “The real question is, did Mr. Ellis just go up to the line or did he cross the line into criminal behavior?”

Jurors sent a note to the judge Wednesday afternoon, asking that they receive written transcripts of the testimony they heard. The judge refused and told the jury they must rely on their memory as they deliberate.

“What this comes down to is whether or not the prosecutor has convinced this jury beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Holloway.

Legal experts said there is a lot on the line for Ellis and District Attorney Robert James, who has handled numerous high-profile cases.

“Somebody’s a winner and somebody’s a loser,” said Karinshak. “And that person, whoever the winner is, is going to be emboldened and empowered. The loser is going to lose their political future.”

Deliberations resume Thursday morning.