Former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall, right, waits for motions at a Fulton County Superior Court hearing. / David Tulis, AP
ATLANTA - Former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Beverly Hall, a central figure in the city's massive teacher cheating scandal, was granted a delay Monday in her trial to allow her to continue aggressive treatment for breast cancer.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter delayed Hall's trial until August. "In August, we'll reconsider it," Baxter said.
He made that decision after a dramatic, nearly two-hour hearing that included an expert witness's testimony that Hall, 67, will probably be dead in a year, her doctor's testimony that she is terminally ill and a courtroom interruption by civil rights icon Andrew Young.
The outburst from Young came when Baxter was addressing attorneys at the conclusion of testimony and after Richard Deane, one of Hall's attorneys, had made closing remarks.
"Either way, this is a sad, sad situation," Baxter said, discussing whether to delay Hall's trial after testimony that her cancer has spread to her spine, bones and liver. "It's possible that if we take this year off, this case will never be heard."
"Good!" Young said loudly from his third-row seat, where he sat shoulder to shoulder with another civil rights icon, the Rev. Joseph Lowery. They were there with a courtroom full of Hall supporters.
Baxter asked Young what he'd said and ordered Young to leave. Then, he asked the former Atlanta mayor and former United Nations ambassador to explain.
"It would be (best) for ... this whole city if this trial never takes place," Young said. "The school system has repaired itself. The state has done everything it could to (destroy) a very good school system. We need to put this city back together."
He said Hall would face judgment soon enough from "her maker," but "justice has to have some mercy for it to be relevant."
As Young finished speaking and the courtroom applauded, a deputy stood at his elbow.
Baxter told the deputy Young could stay. He said Young hadn't seen how the teacher cheating scandal has "ruined people, the careers ruined. There are two different views of how this should proceed. I believe it should proceed before a jury of her peers."
A few minutes later, Baxter announced his decision.
Hall, who was not at today's hearing, is charged in a racketeering conspiracy, accused of ordering educators to change answers on standardized tests. She and a dozen other educators await trial. Baxter said trials for the others will proceed. Twenty-one educators have accepted plea deals.
Hall's medical oncologist, Laura Weakland, testified that a trial would place unpredictable stress on Hall and endanger the likelihood of aggressive anti-cancer treatment succeeding. She said alternatives such as Hall attending trial via video from home, shortened court days and weeks or frequent trial breaks were unacceptable.
A prosecution expert, James Stark, a medical oncologist from Suffolk, Va., testified that trial risks to Hall's health were "overblown" by her doctor. He said her condition would not improve after a six- to eight-month delay sought by her attorneys. "More than likely, she'll be dead within a year," he said. "If we're ever going to try Dr. Hall, we should do it now."
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Read the original story: Civil rights icon calls for healing in schools scandal