Closing arguments begin in Atlanta test cheating trial

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 7:47 PM
Closing arguments begin in Atlanta test cheating trial

ATLANTA (AP) — Closing arguments started Monday in the trial of a dozen former Atlanta Public Schools educators accused of participating in a test cheating conspiracy that drew nationwide attention.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that one minor charge was dropped against former Benteen Elementary School testing coordinator Theresia Copeland and former regional director Sharon Davis Williams before jurors entered the courtroom Monday. Copeland and Williams are still charged with racketeering.

A grand jury indicted 35 educators in March 2013, and many have already reached plea agreements with prosecutors. The educators have said they faced pressure from supervisors — including former Superintendent Beverly Hall — to inflate students' scores.

Hall was supposed to be tried along with the others, but her lawyers successfully argued she was too sick to help her own defense. She died two weeks ago from complications linked to breast cancer.

Testimony in the trial concluded in late February. The monthslong trial began in August with more than six weeks of jury selection and the panel has had a roughly two-week break from the trial. Judge Jerry Baxter told the jury that closing arguments will likely conclude on Wednesday and they'll begin deliberating after that.

"What happened to our children, it was sad, it was ugly. They were cheating and it's not right and I'm asking y'all to do something about it," prosecutor Clint Rucker told the jury.