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Judge Delays Dr. Beverly Hall’s Trial

Dr. Laura Weakland, Dr. Hall's oncologist, testified Monday in Fulton County Superior Court.
Dr. Laura Weakland, Dr. Hall's oncologist, testified Monday in Fulton County Superior Court.
Credit Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A Fulton County Superior Court judge Monday granted a 4 month delay in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial against former superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall. That means the trial will start in August instead of this month. Attorneys for Hall called for a delay due to Hall’s medical condition. She has Stage IV breast cancer.

Hall is one of 13 defendants. She’s charged with racketeering, theft by taking, giving a false statement and submitting a false document. Prosecutors allege Hall and the other 12 defendants were involved in cheating on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, but Hall maintains her innocence.

Hall was not in court Monday, but judge Jerry Baxter did hear from Hall’s oncologist. Dr. Laura Weakland testified that Hall’s condition, which has spread to her liver and her bones, is treatable but not curable. Weakland says Hall’s cancer has become worse. She plans to switch Hall from a pill form of chemotherapy to an intravenous form.

“She has progressive disease in her liver, which in my medical opinion — it’s a crisis.”

Weakland said she needs 60 to 90 days to see how Hall responds to the change. She said during that time, it would be tough for Hall to participate in a trial.

“Chemotherapy in general will cause difficulty concentrating. The medicines that I use for nausea can potentially cause her problems concentrating. In my professional opinion, she will have problems. It will be difficult for her.”

Weakland also said if Hall’s white blood cell count drops, having to physically come to court could lead to an infection. She also said Hall could experience fatigue, severe diarrhea and further depression.

Virginia oncologist Dr. James Stark testified for the prosecution.He said he thought Hall could stand trial if the court makes special allowances.   

“I think it’s doable. I think you would have to pay attention to how she’s doing.”

Stark also said he doesn’t think the chemotherapy drug Hall will be prescribed will work and that she could be dead within months. As a result, he said the trial should proceed as quickly as possible.

“Dr. Hall will never be in as good a shape to go to trial as she is today.”

Later in the hearing, there was an outburst from former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young. Young said it would be “merciful” if the trial never took place.

“She’s got to stand before God. Let God judge her.”

But Judge Baxter said the cheating scandal has ruined many careers, and he thinks the case should proceed before a jury.

Shortly after, Baxter moved the trial to August, saying as hard as he’s tried to move the case along there are things he can’t control.  He says he hopes Hall’s condition improves. But as far as the trial, Baxter said:

“Dr. Hall or without Dr. Hall this case is moving forward, and we will deal with all the evidence for a trial in the case, and we will find a jury as best as we can that will be fair and impartial, and at some point this journey will be over.”

Baxter also said the four month delay will leave time to see if a pending appeal filed by Tamara Cotman will affect the case. Cotman was the first defendant to go to trial. She was found not guilty of trying to influence a witness but still faces racketeering charges.

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