The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments July 9 for a motion to appeal three death sentences given to Clayton Ellington, who was convicted of murdering his wife and their 2-year-old twin sons in 2006.
In 2008 a jury found Ellington guilty of the three murders and found nine aggravating circumstances, only one of which was needed to make him eligible for the death penalty. The jury recommended the death sentence and the court sentenced him to death on each count of murder.
Ellington’s attorneys contend that during the trial more than 20 errors were made and said the trial court was wrong to limit any questions during jury selection that would reveal “the most explosive aspect of this case,” which was that two of the victims were twin babies.
“Given the fact that the most dominant and unusual feature of this case was that it involved the killing of two young children, the most important issue…was to select a jury that could be fair and impartial in a case involving the killing of children, without any undue bias, prejudice or emotion,” a 121-page brief states. Ellington’s attorneys also said he suffered “almost 12 hours of abusive and improper questioning by police officers.”
Ellington and his wife Berna lived in Lithonia with their two sons. According to court documents, Ellington and a friend went to his house May 17, 2006 to check on his wife because she wasn’t responding to Ellington’s text messages. When they arrived they found Ellington’s wife and children dead and called 911.
DeKalb County Police investigators said when they arrived at Ellington’s home they found his wife lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs and his children, wearing matching red pajamas, lying in blood in their cribs in a bedroom upstairs.
According to medical examiners, all three died from blunt force trauma caused by the claw end of a claw hammer. Investigators said that according to the blood spatter patterns, Berna was attacked first while she was in bed, then as she ran down the stairs and where she finally collapsed at the bottom of the stairs. The twins were murdered in their cribs.
Jane Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Supreme Court, said the court’s decision on the appeals could take up to six months.