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Updated: 12:32 p.m. Friday, July 11, 2014 | Posted: 10:42 a.m. Friday, July 11, 2014

Beverly Hall won’t face trial next month in Atlanta cheating case



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Beverly Hall won’t face trial next month in Atlanta cheating case photo
Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis spoke Friday during a hearing on former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall’s health as defense attorneys David Bailey and J. Tom Morgan looked on. (MARK NIESSE)

By Mark Niesse

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta schools cheating trial will go on without former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who is undergoing treatment for Stage IV breast cancer.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter said in court Friday that he couldn’t delay the trial any longer, and it will begin Aug. 11.

“This community is ready to have this decided one way or another,” Baxter said. “I don’t see how there’s any way that this trial can proceed with Dr. Hall with the condition she’s in.”

The charges against Hall are still pending, and she would face a separate trial if her health improves.

Hall and 12 other former Atlanta Public Schools employees are accused of participating in an effort to correct students’ standardized test score answers in 2009 to make their schools’ results appeal better than they were.

Twenty-one other defendants have already pleaded guilty.

Assistant District Attorney Fani Willis asked the judge to allow Hall to attend the trial through a video service such as Skype. Defense attorneys objected to that idea, saying it would infringe on Hall’s constitutional rights.

“We’re in 2014. It’s not 1986 where we don’t have the benefit of all this technology,” Willis said. “The state thinks it’s more prudent to try all the defendants at once.”

But Baxter said he didn’t believe Hall was faking her illness, and she wouldn’t be able to participate in the upcoming trial.

One of Hall’s defense attorneys, David Bailey, said he couldn’t predict how long Hall will live.

“If we start a trial here, it’s inconceivable to me that this trial would finish,” Bailey said. “To think that she could come in here and deal with a trial of six-to-eight hours in length on any day or successive days is difficult for me to comprehend.”

Hall and other defendants are facing racketeering charges that allege they either knew about or ignored widespread cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

A state investigation completed in 2011 said that 185 educators, including the defendants, participated in cheating at 44 schools, often by erasing students’ wrong answers and bubbling in correct answers.

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