Motion hearings begin for Atlanta cheating scandal - New York News

Motion hearings begin for Atlanta cheating scandal

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ATLANTA -

The Fulton County judge presiding over the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal said that he is doing everything he can to avoid a mistrial.

An attorney who's represented Atlanta Public Schools for more than 22 years, along with several teachers since then, called the standardized test cheating scandal a "farce."

Judge Jerry W. Baxter assured the attorney that the matter would be up to a jury to decide.

Last March, 23 grand jurors began hearing cases involving former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of having a role in the 2009 standardized test cheating scandal. The grand jury is expected to decide whether criminal charges will be brought against educators identified in the state investigation.

The cheating scandal has been in the headlines for nearly four years. It cost then Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall her job, and 180 educators were identified as being part of the cheating.

Speaking Monday, Judge Baxter pointed out that many of the people accused in the case could end up with conflict of interest issues concerning the case.

The case had already reached problematic proportions with it involving an estimated 2 million documents and nearly 2,500 witnesses. Judge Baxter called the case "humongous."

In response, prosecutors did reduce the number of people they would likely call to testify concerning the cheating scandal to between 40 and 500.

Judge Baxter also voiced his concern that defense attorneys have learned information about the educators that they could use to cross examine them on later.

Defense attorneys claimed the case is divided by schools and that no real problem exists.

Defense attorney Gerald Griggs said, "They don't know each other. Atlanta Public Schools is a very big school district with hundreds of schools. Most teachers don't know teachers at other schools. If you're dealing with a cheating allegation of one teacher at one school and another teacher at another school, they're not going to know that school. So, I think it's very important to understand that there is no conflict."

Prosecutor Fani Willis said, "If they give information in regards to the conspiracy, in general, then they are obviously giving evidence that is detrimental to the defense and helpful to the state. And, because they give testimony about the conspiracy; overall, there is a potential conflict and we think it needs to be addressed."

The judge asked all parties involved with the case to return with their clients to the Fulton County Courthouse on Tuesday. Judge Baxter said he'd like to sort out issues for the record concerning the case.

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