Virus attack gets convicted murderer a new trial

Stenographer broke Geek Prime Directive: Never trust computers with anything irreplaceable

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Nearly all court reporters capture two copies of transcription records: one on disk within the stenography machine, the other on special rolls of paper that fit in the machine like the paper point-of-sale devices use to print receipts.

Court should have asked a geek: Never trust computer with the only copy of anything irreplaceable

Cowart, according to information provided to the Herald by her employer at the time, was in the habit of bringing to court too few rolls of that paper to capture transcripts of all the events of the day.

Instead she, and therefore the court, had to depend on the integrity of the copies transcripts stored on disk, in direct violation of the policies of her employer, according to the company, Goldman Naccarato Patterson Vela & Associates Inc.

“The overturning of a murder conviction always means terrible pain for the victim’s family and frustration for prosecutors and police officers,” according to quotes from Miami-Dade State Attorney’s spokesman Ed Griffith in the Miami Sun-Sentinel. “Overturning a murder conviction because of a court reporter’s problem creates a brand new level of pain and frustration.”

The case helped push the 11th Judicial Circuit to wire all the courtrooms at Miami-Dade's criminal courthouse with digital sound recorders on which to make its own recording of trials. None of the courts had previously been fitted with either cameras or sound recording equipment.

Court stenographers are resisting the upgrade as a threat to their jobs.

Chaviano's conviction was thrown out last week. His new trial on charges of second degree murder has not yet been scheduled. He will remain in prison while he waits.

Reports don't detail which virus attacked Cowart's computer or whether the courts are adding security to avoid more malware damage.

Cowart, the stenographer, has since been fired.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit: 

Police booking photo

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