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Jurors Resume Deliberating Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Case


There's been a long and embarrassing saga for the Atlanta public schools, but it might be nearing an end now. Jurors resume their deliberations today in a case against a dozen former educators. They are accused of conspiring to inflate scores on students' standardized tests. This cheating scandal came to light five years ago, and it's resulted in one of the longest criminal trials in Georgia history. From member station WABE, Martha Dalton has this story.

MARTHA DALTON, BYLINE: The state of Georgia is prosecuting 12 former teachers and administrators. They're charged with several violations - the most severe is racketeering. Prosecutor John Floyd broke down that charge for the jury during closing arguments.


JOHN FLOYD: So what happened? In simple terms, they cheated, they lied and they stole.

DALTON: Floyd argued the defendants conspired to cheat, to inflate test scores and earn raises and bonuses. Some former teachers are accused of giving students answers; others of changing answers themselves on elementary and middle school tests. But defense attorney Akil Secret argued trying teachers for a crime as serious as racketeering, which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, is an overreach.


AKIL SECRET: It's an abuse of discretion; teachers - really - racketeers.

DALTON: Defense attorneys also took issue with some state witnesses. Thirty-five former educators were indicted in the case. Most of them took plea deals. They pled guilty, received lighter punishments and agreed to testify against the remaining defendants. Defense attorney Annette Green said testimony from admitted cheaters isn't reliable.


ANNETTE GREEN: We should have unbiased, accurate information of where you're alleging that the crime took place, but we don't have that. We have witnesses' perception that have lied before.

DALTON: Prosecutors said those witnesses were trying to make amends for what they'd done. Now the case is in the jury's hands. It could take a while to reach a verdict. Jurors have six months of evidence to go through, including testimony from more than 130 witnesses. For NPR News, I'm Martha Dalton in Atlanta.

GREENE: And just a note here - Martha Dalton is a reporter at member station WABE. The station's broadcast license is held by the Atlanta Board of Education, but WABE's newsroom operates independently. You heard her story on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martha Dalton is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She came toWABEin May 2010 after working at CNN Radio.