ATLANTA - The long awaited Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal trial got underway Monday.
Channel 2’s Tom Regan was at the Fulton courthouse where pre-trial motions were being held.
Regan said Judge Jerry Baxter explained to jurors how this will be a very demanding trial that is expected to take months. He instructed the jury to fill out a questionnaire.
Baxter also heard pre-trial motions on a wide variety of matters including evidence, testimony and other issues. He’s deciding what can and cannot be used in the trial of the dozen of defendants.
Attorney Scott Smith took on the case of Theresia Copeland after another attorney was ordered off the case due to a conflict of interest.
“The allegation against her is that she, by herself, had participated in erasing test answers and filling in the blank on her own,” Smith said.
Smith asked the judge for a continuance of his case arguing that he has not had time to locate and question potential witnesses that might help in her defense.
“We have been sitting on this case, two lawyers assigned to this case. We’ve worked on it every single week since April of this year and that’s just not enough time,” Smith said.
The judge has yet to rule on that attorney’s request to delay the case. The jury selection process in the trial could last two weeks, but the trial itself is expected to last about two months.
The lead defendant, former APS superintendent Beverly Hall, was missing from the courtroom due to having stage 4 cancer. Last month, a judge ruled that Hall will be tried separately from the 12 others. She is facing racketeering and conspiracy charges stemming from the cheating scandal.
In March of last year, a grand jury indicted 35 educators. Twenty-one educators accepted plea agreements. Hall is one of more than a dozen former APS employees set to go to trial for falsifying standardized test scores nearly five years ago.