Judge removes defense attorney in Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal case

Six former educators who were convicted during the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal must now find new attorneys.

The public defender who had represented them since 2017 successfully removed himself from the high-profile case Thursday.

Public defender Stephen Scarborough asked retired Judge Jerry Baxter to be removed from the cheating scandal case Thursday.

"This is an extraordinary situation. It's a mess, I mean I don't deny any of that. All of this was done in our part in good faith. The state has said let Scarborough off, they've declined to object to that anymore," said public defender Stephen Scarborough.

The defense attorney has argued for years that he cannot effectively represent all six of the remaining defendants in their attempt to get a new trial. Thirty-five educators were indicted, including former Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall. Hall died of cancer while the case was being prosecuted. All but 12 of those indicted ended up confessing. Of the 12 who went to trial 11 were convicted. Public defender Scarborough represents the six remaining defendants. He wants them all to have individual attorneys.

"For one of the reasons, it's going to go on forever, which nobody wants, is for there to be conflicted representation and then down the road it turns out that there was a conflict all along, and then you're talking about this case closing out in 2032," lawyer Scarborough joked.

Judge Jerry Baxter

Judge Jerry Baxter  (FOX 5)

Judge Baxter removed Scarborough, but the issue quickly turned to whether the defendants: Michael Pitts, Sharon Davis Williams, Shani Robinson, Tabeeka Jordan, Diane Buckner-Webb and Theresia Copeland are indigent in the first place.

Prosecutors contend five of the six are not

"Some of these individuals should know today and should have known for at least the five past years that they are not indigent, under the rules under Georgia law and that spending time looking for the public defender's office to evaluate them today is a waste of time," prosecutor Kevin Armstrong proclaimed.

Judge Baxter asked all six to return to court March 16th with a private or court appointed lawyer ready to go.