Carter's cancer battle among Georgia's top stories of 2015

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ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter's battle with cancer, which put a spotlight on his faith and led to an outpouring of support, is among the state's top stories of 2015.

Other top stories from the past year include punishment for educators in one of the nation's largest school cheating scandals; problems with a lethal drug that led Georgia to temporarily halt executions; and the departure of the University of Georgia's longtime football coach Mark Richt.

The past year also saw the culmination of a criminal case stemming from a deadly salmonella outbreak traced to a peanut plant in Blakely, about 200 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Here are Georgia's Top 10 news stories of 2015 as selected by The Associated Press:



Former President Jimmy Carter reveals that he has melanoma, and says the cancer has spread to his brain.

Further testing finds that Carter is responding well to treatment and doctors find no evidence of new tumors.

At a Sunday service in his hometown church in Plains, the 91-year-old former Georgia governor announces to cheers that doctors had found no evidence of the four lesions discovered on his brain and no signs of any new cancer growth.



Eleven former Atlanta Public Schools educators are convicted of racketeering for their roles in a scheme to inflate students' scores on standardized exams.

The defendants — including teachers, a principal and other administrators — were accused of falsifying test results to collect bonuses or keep their jobs in Atlanta's 50,000-student school system. All but one of them is sentenced to serve prison time. A 12th defendant, a teacher, is acquitted of all charges.

Former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall dies after battling breast cancer. Hall was among those charged but never went to trial due to her health.



The Georgia Department of Corrections abruptly calls off the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner — the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945 — after a problem is found with the lethal injection drug.

All other executions are temporarily suspended as state officials try to figure out why solid white chunks had formed in the normally clear compounded pentobarbital solution.

State officials later say they believe the drug was shipped and stored at temperatures that were too cold, and say they've taken steps to correct the problem.

A judge in August dismisses a lawsuit filed by Gissendaner's lawyers, clearing the way for her execution. Two more executions quickly follow.



Mark Richt steps down as head football coach at the University of Georgia, leaving players stunned as they prepare for the team's final contest of the season, a bowl game.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity announces in a statement released by the school that the two "mutually agreed" that Richt would step down.

The university later hires Kirby Smart, the University of Alabama's defensive coordinator, to lead the Bulldogs.

Richt is hired as head coach of his alma mater, the University of Miami.



Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 22-year-old daughter of singers Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, is found face-down in a bathtub in her Roswell townhome. She is treated at hospitals and at a hospice, and dies about six months after she was found unresponsive.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office determines the cause of Brown's death, but will not release details because of a court order to seal the results.



Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell is sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak traced to a southwest Georgia peanut plant that led to the deaths of nine people and sickened 714.

Parnell's punishment is the stiffest penalty ever imposed on a U.S. producer in a food-borne illness case.

A judge also sentences two former plant managers to prison terms.



The director of a movie about singer Gregg Allman is sentenced to two years in jail for the death of a camera assistant killed when a freight train plowed into the film's crew on a railroad bridge in southeast Georgia.

"Midnight Rider" director Randall Miller pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing charges to avoid standing trial in the 2014 death of Sarah Jones.

It was the first high-profile prosecution of a filmmaker for an on-set death since 1982.



Two female Army soldiers become the first women to complete the military's grueling Ranger School at Fort Benning.

The history-making graduation of 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot; and Capt. Kristen Griest, a military police officer, from the nine-week course in August shattered another gender barrier as the Pentagon weighed expanded roles for women in combat.



Gov. Nathan Deal signs Georgia's medical marijuana bill into law. This allows people with certain medical conditions including epilepsy and other seizure disorders to possess cannabis oil with a doctor's permission and a state registration card. The law doesn't address how patients or their families can get the product, which remains illegal under federal law. A commission created by the law rejects appeals to allow in-state growth of marijuana to manufacture the oil.



A federal judge sentences civil rights activist and former state lawmaker Tyrone Brooks to serve a year and a day in prison. The Atlanta Democrat had pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax document and no contest to five counts of mail and wire fraud. A hearing on the restitution Brooks will be required to pay is set for January.

Prosecutors said Brooks solicited about $1 million in contributions from the mid-1990s to 2012 from individuals and corporate donors, saying the money would be used to fight illiteracy in poor communities and for other specific causes. Instead, they said, Brooks used the money for personal expenses.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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