In a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Georgia, the court decided to reverse former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis attempted extortion and perjury convictions.
In the court’s opinion, which was released Nov. 30, Justice Harold Melton wrote that “while the evidence was sufficient to convict Ellis, due to technical errors, the criminal convictions against Ellis, who has already served his time in prison and been released, must be reversed. It will be up to the district attorney whether to retry him.”
Ellis’ first trial ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. He was re-tried on nine counts in the indictment and on July 1, 2015, the jury convicted him of one count of criminal attempt to commit theft by extortion and three counts of perjury, according to the Supreme Court. Ellis initially sentenced to five years, with 18 months to be served behind bars.
In the Supreme Court of Georgia ruling, the courts said it agreed with Ellis’ conviction stating that a rational trier would find him guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But concluded that “we must nevertheless reverse Ellis’ convictions based on certain evidentiary errors that occurred at his trial.”
According to the court, the trial judge in Ellis’ case made a “harmful error” in allowing a Special Purpose Grand Juror to testify at Ellis’ trial.
During trial, Ellis was also prohibited from presenting any evidence of his interactions with several other vendors who were not named in the indictment. Ellis’ lawyers tried to call other vendors to testify that they were not intimidated after not making campaign contributions.
Ellis will have a chance for a new trial. Whether he will be retried or not will be up to the county’s district attorney.
Solicitor Sherry Boston recently defeated Robert James for the district attorney position. She will take office at the beginning of 2017.
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