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Randy Chaviano, 26, Convicted Killer: Court Reporter erased transcript wins Chaviano a new trial

Randy Chaviano, 26, convicted by a jury in July 2009 of fatally shooting Charles Acosta at his Hialeah duplex, will get a new trial, because allegedly Terlesa Cowart, a Miami-Dade court stenographer/reporter with the firm of Goldman, Naccarato Patterson Vela & Associates Inc., transferred her legal notes to her personal computer and subsequently her computer was struck with a virus that essentially wiped out all her documents, including the transcript. That is either an elaborate lie or an unfortunate chain of events.

The problem was discovered when Chaviano attempted to appeal his conviction and the Third District Court of Appeal began their process to determine whether an appeal was warranted and had difficulty finding the transcripts of the eight-day trial, and did what is considered customary procedure, requested a copy of the murder trial.

When Cowart was notified by the court reporting agency that the appellate court placed an order for the transcripts of the trial, Cowart was in trouble, knowing that she could not produce a legal record of the court proceedings. With no legal record on file as to what happened in court, the Third District Court of Appeal had no choice but throw out the conviction and grant Chaviano a new trial and another chance to be tried before a jury of his peers.

The overturning of a murder conviction creates tremendous hardship on the victims’ family, the prosecutors, prosecutor’s investigators, expert witnesses, police officers, other witnesses, if any, court personnel and the court reporting agency associated with Terlesa Cowart.

The family will now have to re-visit every heart gripping detail of the case and will also have to feel the pain of losing their love one all over again. To have to listen too the sordid details once is bad enough but to have to go through that grueling procedure twice is mental and emotional torture.

The news could not come at a worst time for the court reporters as the 11th Judicial Circuit is in the process of starting a pilot program, putting digital recorders in with court reporters to capture the words of judges, lawyers, defendants and witnesses.

Court reporters have resisted this move for years, fearing that they will be ultimately replaced by the digital recorders. However, the 11th Judicial Circuit has already forged ahead and wired the courtrooms at Miami-Dade’s criminal courthouse. In a few months, five courtrooms in the criminal division will begin using digital recorders during the daily morning calendar session.

As a result of Cowart’s negligence and lack of due care of legal documents, she is no longer affiliated with Goldman, Naccarato Patterson Vela & Associates Inc.,

With this change of events, technically, it puts Harvey Sepler, defense attorney for Chaviano on the offense and the prosecution on the defense in an attempt too replicate the previous outcome, knowing that Sepler has an advantage, and will have yet another day in court to prove Randy Chaviano innocence.

January 2, 2012 - Posted by | Court News | , , , , , , , ,


  1. This is extremely disappointing. Speaking as a court reporter, this is not the standard for which the profession strives. She should have taken extra precaution to prevent another mishap from occurring. This one situation should not cast a negative light on the entire profession. Making the official record is an important task for which most court reporters take very seriously. Stenography has been around for more than 100 years and remains the most effective and efficient method for capturing the spoken word. Although a new trial is costly, it is the best remedy that will eventually satisfy the parties.

    Comment by Michael Scire, RPR, CMRS | January 4, 2012 | Reply

    • The majority of my work experience [nearly 30 years] was spent in the court system. I’ve had the pleasure of working very closely with various court reporters and have also spent time proofing their work for statutory requirements during my time with the Administrative Office of the Courts. I’ve studied their behavior and know the way they operate like the back of my hand.

      Believe me, not everyone will look at the court reporters in an unfavorable light, but you have to admit; this unfortunate chain of incidents will cause the courts as well as the prosecutor and the defense to challenge the court reporters ability to capture pertinent information; and will do so by requesting that the court reporter read a certain portion of his or her notes, to make sure that they are capturing as much of what is being said as possible.

      If you live or work in Miami-Dade County, chances are you either know me or know of me. I don’t know if you remember years ago when the court reporters were fighting with the Administrative Office for more money and the A.O.C., decided to come up with contracts.

      Remember, after the contracts were agreed upon, due to wording, it proved more favorable for the court reporters, than the A.O.C. anticpated. Subsequently, the A.O.C. tried to revise it, but it was too late.

      After two years of meetings and the legal department giving their seal of approval, I was the one that discovered the error [within one minute] of looking over the signed document, of one word, [“each deposition” or “each case”; the court reporters could take as many as a dozen depositions for one case] that created a wind-fall for the court reporters and a black eye for the A.O.C. The issue was ultimately presented before a judge and the court reporters came out on top.

      That’s why I can write with such details about the system and its working. I worked it, I studied it and I lived and perfected the art of observing various cultures in action and their nuances. In my presence, I allowed not just the reporters, but everyone who shared my space, from the Public Defenders, State Attorneys, Police Officers, other court personnel and even pending witnesses coming in for a deposition to let their hair down as an individual, without passing judgment or labeling anyone. And on more than a few occasions, I’ve saved reporters from themselves.

      “So, you see! Every word is from a point of reference, as I continue to be non-judgmental, and as my article began to find its character on a blank canvas; it is without judgment but from a reference point of experience.”

      Comment by brp305 | January 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Give me a call sometime, Michael. You can email me

      Comment by Steve Hubbard | February 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. Yes, what happened to Cowart, could happen to anyone. After hearing about this story, eight days lost, I went to my mentor, Google Search, and after entering “stenographer loses notes, lost notes,” and variations thereof, I found 20 instances of such problems mostly of trials going back 20 plus years when paper notes were not worried about viruses, and the majority of these stories being of recent times. The courts have to take possession of electronic notes as a backup to what the court reporter takes home. If the reporter works for an office that has a contract with a court to provide services, that office should take a copy of that reporter’s notes. Also the court and court reporter office should take a copy of that reporters dictionary which should be updated every six months. The dictionary is the table of English words that match the very personal electronic shorthand of that one reporter. Doing these things would ensure a record if ever that reporter were to no longer be able to do their work. Also, in this day and age, every court reporter should be forced to make a digital audio recording of the proceedings and also give that to the court and to the court reporting office. Most do anyway. But it appears at least in the Miami-Dade Crimnal Circuit Court, they are going forward with full integration of ER/DAR and this is a long term decision to get ready for the inevitable that stenos as an industry is becoming obsolete in the courts because of their diminishing numbers every day due to consistent 90% failure rate at the schools and due to the graying and retiring reporters of the baby boom generation.

    Comment by Steve Hubbard | February 12, 2012 | Reply

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