Court Reporter’s Death Puts Preliminary Hearing in Doubt

Recently there have been a number of cases in which court reporters have either mistakenly lost the files related to a particular court case, causing the case to have to be retried, or purposefully made inaccurate court reports, also resulting in new trials. However, in a recent event, a court reporter in Kansas has also put a trial in jeopardy, but for a different reason. In this case, a court reporter died before having produced an official report for the court proceedings.

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Long time Greene County court reporter Jeanette Freeman died from natural causes on June 3 in her home. At the time she was responsible for completing a transcript in the case of Craig Wood, who was on trial for allegedly killing Hailey Owens of Springfield.

Authorities know that Freeman had taken notes during the preliminary hearing for the trial, but are unsure whether or not she had completed the transcript before her death. The judge in the case, Judge Dan Conklin, indicated that the missing transcript could prompt another preliminary hearing.

Though cases involving missing or incomplete transcripts are rare, such cases do highlight the importance of having an accurate and complete transcript of court proceedings. In previous cases missing or incomplete court reports have resulted in those convicted of such heinous crimes as murder being awarded new trials.

Even more significantly, a court reporter in Manhattan, New York, was found to have purposefully made incomplete reports of the trials to which he was assigned. As a result of his misdeeds, including writing “I hate my job” in one of the reports, Manhattan authorities had to review up to 40 criminal cases which had been won.

Though there had been an audio recording for the preliminary hearing covered by Freeman before her death, experts say that it will still have to be transcribed in order to be considered an official transcript.