Of Note

Sloppy record keeping causing headaches in criminal appeals

The fees are paid directly to the court reporter by the defendant's attorney. In cases of indigent criminal and family court defendants, Dallas County pays the fee, on top of what has already been paid to the court reporter in salary. (Many defendants in capital murder cases are indigents, so the county pays.) They can also charge to make copies of already-transcribed trials.

The capital murder case of Darlie Routier illustrates another problem. When inaccuracies and mistakes were noticed in the transcript of Routier's trial, after she was convicted of killing her two sons in 1996, court reporter Sandra Halsey was held in contempt of court, jailed and ordered to pay $32,265 to fix the transcript. Her license was revoked. In another case, court reporter Mary Belton was jailed after missing three deadlines to complete the transcript.

In still other cases, attorneys have discovered that the court reporter in question has retired or died since the trial and no notes have been filed with the county.

"We may need to look at the storage and transfer of records on a global or countywide scale to insure that the needs of all county departments are being met," says Greg Allbright, chief deputy district clerk.

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