Otis Smart should learn today whether he will be acquitted or convicted of sexual battery charges after jurors went home Thursday without reaching a verdict.
The six-person jury - four white men, one black woman and one white woman - deliberated for three hours Thursday afternoon and will resume their discussions at 9 a.m. today.
Mr. Smart, Lucy C. Laney High School coach, has pleaded not guilty to charges of misdemeanor simple battery and furnishing alcohol to a minor, in addition to the misdemeanor sexual battery charge. He is accused of trying to perform oral sex on LaShandra Scurry, 19, a former player, on Aug. 5, 1995. The jury is considering several pieces of evidence, including telephone records between Mr. Smart and Benedict College coach Margaret Jones. Ms. Scurry says she and Mr. Smart spoke to Ms. Jones from his house Aug. 5 shortly before he allegedly assaulted her. He claims a seven-minute call to Ms. Jones was a message he left on her machine.
But school police Officer Jackie Turner phoned Ms. Jones' home Thursday morning and timed the length of her answering machine tape, at the request of Chief Assistant Solicitor Sheryl Jolly.
"The total time was approximately two minutes and four or five seconds," Ms. Turner testified. She admitted under cross examination she doesn't know if Ms. Jones uses the same machine as in August 1995.
In her closing arguments, Ms. Jolly reminded jurors of Mr. Smart's explanation for the seven-minute call and said, "That dog just won't hunt."
Defense attorney Jack Long pleaded with jurors in his closing arguments to stay focused on several time discrepancies in witnesses' testimony about when Ms. Scurry came home Aug. 5. He asked jurors to believe that Ms. Scurry and her lover Bridget Williams conspired with Laney teacher Lori Myles, school police and the Board of Education to frame Mr. Smart.
"I think before this case started ... there were some people trying to do something to Mr. Smart," Mr. Long said. "The problem is they just didn't do a good job at fabricating this story."
Ms. Jolly's closing argument had about a dozen spectators storming from the courtroom in protest. At one point, she compared Ms. Scurry to Little Red Riding Hood and, indirectly, Mr. Smart to the Big Bad Wolf.
"The defense wants to talk about blackmail - we should be talking about intimidation," Ms. Jolly said. "This man intimidates young women. He is a selective predator of unfortunate young women. He holds the ticket for them to get a scholarship and then he comes to collect."
Earlier in the day, Superintendent Charles Larke testified about a 1995 investigation of Mr. Smart and three Laney teachers on allegations of improper sexual conduct with students. The three teachers quit when told of the allegations, but nothing was ever proven about Mr. Smart, Dr. Larke said.
Mr. Smart was reprimanded in a letter for using profanity toward students, but that letter was sent in the 1995 investigation file to the state Professional Practices Commission and was not given to Mr. Smart, Dr. Larke testified. Board attorney Pete Fletcher had previously said Mr. Smart was given the letter.
The PPC regulates teachers' certificates and is investigating Mr. Smart further for the 1995 allegations, Dr. Larke said.
"Based on the investigation that was already at the PPC headquarters in Atlanta, I felt I needed to have this investigated," Dr. Larke testified of Ms. Scurry's allegations.
Ms. Scurry says Mr. Smart arranged to pick her up at the Revco on 15th Street and Walton Way Aug. 5 to talk about her leaving for Benedict College and the possibility of a basketball scholarship for her.
She did not report the incident to authorities until her mother found in May a letter she had written, but not sent, to Mr. Smart. Mrs. Scurry, an admitted crack cocaine addict, showed the letter to Mr. Smart and then took it to assistant basketball coach Mrs. Myles, who helped her make copies.
Mrs. Myles' husband, Kerwin, gave the letter to school police, who started an investigation.