Jury challenge in APS cheating trial rejected

Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter on Wednesday denied a challenge to the pool of prospective jurors for the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial. Baxter said he thought the jury pool was fairly constituted.

That means jury selection in the trial of 12 former APS employees will continue this week.

Defense attorney Bob Rubin filed a motion last month saying a hearing was needed to find out why African-Americans are under-represented among jurors summoned for the trial. All the defendants are African-American.

About 35 percent of the jurors called for the case are African-American, compared to about 46 percent of all potential Fulton County jurors, according to defense expert Jeffrey Martin. Martin said that difference is statistically significant and too big to be due to chance.

“If the jury list was an APS teacher, it would be indicted,” Rubin told Baxter during Wednesday’s hearing.

Martin testified that Fulton County and a county vendor made tens of thousands of changes to the state-provided list of people eligible for jury duty, changes he said were outside the bounds of jury-selection rules.

Prosecutors objected to the challenge, questioning its timeliness and data cited by the defense.

“There was no purposeful discrimination in this process,” Fulton prosecutor Lenny Krick argued. “People were picked from a representative pool and randomly selected.”

Rubin said he was not contending the county deliberately intended to under-represent African-Americans in the jury pool.

“All we have to show is that a cognizable group was systematically under-represented,” he said.

But Baxter disagreed, rejecting the challenge. “I don’t think you’ve carried your burden,” he said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.