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Verdict reached in Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial

10:07 AM, Sep 6, 2013   |    comments
Tamara Cotman is accused of influencing a witness in the APS case.
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UPDATE -- A verdict has been reached in the trial of Tamara Cotman, who is accused of influencing a witness in the APS case.

Previous Story:

ATLANTA -- Jurors are back, considering the fate of the first person on trial in the Atlanta Schools cheating scandal.

The jury of eight women and four men began deliberating after lunch Thursday. The judge sent them home around 5p.m. after they said they still had a lot to go through.

Witness testimony concluded Wednesday.

The state brought dozens of witnesses during the trial to show the overall problems in the school system. The Assistant District Attorney, Fani Willis, said the goal was to show the motive for former Atlanta Public schools district director Tamara Cotman to influence witnesses.

During her closing, Willis told jurors that the scandal had cheated children, and that Cotman's incentive to hinder the investigation was to hold on to her job as an APS administrator.

Defense attorney Benjamin Davis presented a succession of witnesses who said they never saw Cotman order any cheating. But Cotman never testified in her own defense.

During his closing Davis said the jury must stick with the charge against her, and no one ever claimed Cotman cheated.

Cotman is charged with influencing a witness, a former interim principal named Jimmye Hawkins. This week, Hawkins testified that Cotman called a meeting that included a suggestion by Cotman that the principals tell investigators to "go to hell." Cotman has pleaded not guilty.

Wednesday, Davis asked for a mistrial after prosecutor Clint Rucker asked a witness if Cotman committed a crime by "hiding" CRCT test cheating. Davis argued that Rucker was "introducing a new crime" with which Cotman wasn't charged. Judge Jerry Baxter denied the mistrial motion but ordered the jury to disregard the question and the affirmative answer of the witness, attorney Jim Hollis.


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