Georgia Supreme Court reverses convictions for former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis
In a surprise turn of events, the Georgia Supreme Court has decided to reverse the conviction of former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
Ellis was accused of shaking down a county contractor for a campaign contribution and lying under oath about it. In its ruling, the state Supreme Court found that evidence that could’ve supported Ellis’ claims that he didn’t routinely shakedown vendors was improperly excluded from trial.
In its opinion, the court said, “We cannot say the jury’s consideration of the only attempted extortion charge upon which he was found guilty may not have been affected by its inability to consider evidence relating to other vendors that could have rebutted the implication by the State that Ellis attempted to extort County vendors as a matter of general practice.”
The Supreme Court also ruled that the trial court erred in allowing a member of the special purpose grand jury that investigated county corruption allegations to testify at Ellis’ trial.
“Instead of relying on such appropriate evidence to allow the jury to make an independent decision on the issue of materiality, the State offered evidence of an individual Special Purpose Grand Juror’s subjective belief about the materiality of Ellis’ statements,” the opinion says. “Because the materiality of Ellis’ alleged false statements was ultimately a question to be resolved by the trial jury based on objective evidence as set forth above, this subjective evidence was not appropriate.”
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, prosecutors will now have to determine whether to try Ellis for a third time. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict in his first trial in 2014.
Lee May has served as the interim CEO since 2013 after Ellis was suspended.
Michael Thurmond was elected to be DeKalb County’s new CEO on Nov. 8.
Here is the Supreme Court’s opinion: