Test-cheating trial delayed for ill former Atlanta school chief
ATLANTA (Reuters) - The trial for a former Atlanta school superintendent charged with conspiring to alter students' standardized test scores will be delayed indefinitely because she is too sick to attend, a judge ruled on Friday.
An attorney for Beverly Hall said she is undergoing chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer and, given her condition, would be unable to endure the court proceedings due to begin on August 11.
Judge Jerry Baxter agreed, noting a dozen of Hall’s co-defendants charged in one of the nation's largest test-cheating scandals will be tried as scheduled next month.
“If Dr. Hall gets better and is able, she will be tried later," Baxter said.
The former educators were charged in connection with a state investigation that found cheating on standardized tests at 44 Atlanta public schools. Prosecutors said test answer sheets were altered, fabricated and falsely certified.
Hall, who did not attend the hearing on Friday, was named National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2009, the same year prosecutors contend widespread cheating took place. She received a $78,000 bonus that year from the school system for improving its test scores, prosecutors said.
They suggested on Friday that Hall might be able to view her trial from home via the Internet, but her defense attorney said such an arrangement would violate Hall's constitutional right to face her accusers.
“Skype and the Sixth Amendment are not compatible,” lawyer David Bailey said.
An assistant district attorney was removed from the cheating case this week and suspended without pay for three days after inadvertently sending an email to prosecutors and defense attorneys stating “surprise, surprise” upon hearing the news that Hall was too ill to attend her trial.
“Even though this comment was made out of frustration, as district attorney, I cannot ignore the appearance of insensitivity to Dr. Hall's condition,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said in a statement on Thursday.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Dan Grebler)
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