Accidental Erasing and Virus Destroy Court Transcript – Convicted Murderer Gets New Trial

An old saying advises that “nobody’s perfect”. This truism is reinforced every day, and for those who type and use computers for a living, the saying is a living reality.

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Writers and stenographers rely on being able save, modify, delete, and even recover information that was typed into and stored on a computer. But, as exemplified by a 2009 murder conviction which was overturned as a result of a court reporter’s error, sometimes a person’s imperfections can come back to haunt them.

In 2009 Randy Chaviano was convicted of murdering a man who had come to Chaviano’s home to purchase drugs. Upon appealing the conviction to the Third District Court, authorities found that there was barely any transcript available of the previous proceedings, a finding which resulted in Chaviano’s original conviction being thrown out, and a new trial being ordered.

The reason for the lack of a complete transcript was that the court reporter for the case did not use paper to record the transcript, as was customary. Instead, it was stored on a computer disk, but the memory was later accidentally erased.

Though the court reporter for this case had backed up the transcript by saving it on her computer, a virus on the computer wiped out her information, including the transcript.

As a result of the situation Miami-Dade court reporters were instructed to use methods to capture the transcripts on both paper and digital memory. Additionally, county regulators pushed to replace human stenographers with digital recorders.

This case underscores the critical work done by court reporters in the United States, and how important it is that they consistently follow proper procedures at all times.

In a more recent situation, a court reporter in New York City caused upwards of 40 cases to be reviewed, after writing “gibberish” instead of accurately reporting court proceedings.