In a surprise ruling this afternoon, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter denied four motions to dismiss the indictments (or parts of the indictments) involving former Atlanta Public Schools educators.
At issue is whether or not educators were coerced to give answers to investigators. This question pivoted on so-called Garrity warnings
A Garrity warning refers to a Supreme Court decision that protects public employees, like school teachers or police officers, who are required to cooperate with investigators or face the loss of their job. If a public employee is coerced in this way and is not warned of the potential legal jeopardy, statements made by the employee cannot be used against them in a criminal case. In that sense it is similar to a Miranda warning (“you have the right to remain silent …”).
In Judge Baxter’s ruling, he wrote, “the Court FINDS that at the time of each Defendant’s interview(s) there were no expressed threats to the Defendant that he or she would lose their jobs unless they provided statements to investigators’ questions. However, whether or not any Defendant subjectively believed that he or she would be fired were he or she to refuse to answer the investigators’ questions, rather than assert their Fifth Amendment privilege, and whether such a subjective belief was objectively reasonable, remains an open question…”.
WABE legal analyst Page Pate's comments on Judge Baxter's rulings.
WABE legal analyst Page Pate breaks down the judge’s ruling:
“Well, he’s not completely ruling out the argument that Garrity may apply to some of these statements, but he’s saying there’s not enough of a Garrity violation here to dismiss counts of the indictment.”
Judge Baxter denied four separate motions to dismiss. Copies of the judge’s orders are posted online.
Order denying defendants’ motion to dismiss the bill of indictment
Order denying defendants’ motion to disqualify the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office
Order denying defendants’ motion to dismiss the indictment based upon surplusage
Order denying defendants’ motion to dismiss the indictment based upon allegation that the Governor lacked authority to appoint special investigators