High Court declines to hear Beverly Hall’s appeal

The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a pretrial appeal filed by former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall in a Fulton County racketeering case.

The court voted 6-1 not to consider the appeal raised by Hall, who is charged in the APS test-cheating scandal with conspiring to commit racketeering, false swearing and theft by taking. She has pleaded not guilty.

Hall was appealing a number of pretrial rulings issued by Fulton Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter. In one, Baxter found that then-Gov. Sonny Perdue had the authority to appoint the special investigators who uncovered test cheating at APS schools and whose interviews of school employees are being used as evidence by prosecutors.

Another issue was whether APS defendants, when initially interviewed by investigators, gave coerced statements because they had been told they risked losing their jobs if they did not cooperate. Baxter, after presiding over lengthy hearings on the matter, ruled that the APS defendants faced no express threats that they would be terminated if they failed to cooperate and give truthful answers.

Justice Robert Benham was the sole justice who dissented to the court’s decision not to hear Hall’s appeal.

Still pending before the high court is another pretrial appeal filed by lawyers representing former Kennedy Middle School Principal Lucious Brown and former Parks Middle School Principal Christopher Waller. They also have asked the state high court to consider whether the APS defendants gave coerced statements and, if so, whether the sweeping indictment against all 35 former APS officials and educators should be dismissed.

If the court declines to hear that appeal as well, the racketeering case will proceed toward trial, which Baxter has set for May.