Local

Cheating Trial Judge Changes Stance On News Report Ban

The judge in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial apologized today after stopping a television news report from being broadcast.

Judge Jerry Baxter signed an emergency motion Friday on behalf of the prosecution.

He lifted that order this morning.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports the reason behind all the drama.

Broadcast version of this story.

Last month state’s witness Reginald Dukes testified in 2006 he was hired by APS to investigate cheating at Parks Middle School. On the stand, Dukes told the court he had evidence of cheating and told then school superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall and others.

“Also at that meeting I told that I had some unsubstantiated information about preparation for cheating on the 2006 CRCT. That they were going to do cheat on that also, they had made plans to do it”.

Dukes says he was threatened by phone for testifying about Hall. He gave a copy of that voice mail to the district’s attorney office.

Judge Baxter did not want the news story to air for fear jurors would see it and possibly influence them. But the judge’s order was about to be met with legal objection from several media outlets.

Lifting the order was appropriate says Emory professor Julie Seaman, who teaches first amendment law.

“If the press has lawfully obtained truthful information, it’s very difficult constitutionally for a court to prevent its publication in advance.”

In situations like this, Professor Seaman says, judges have the option of sequestering a jury. But that also costs money, Seaman added.

Now, the Fulton County district attorney’s office is handling the investigation of the phone call.

It’s possible Reginald Dukes could be called again to testify for the state.