Man convicted of murder gets retrial after virus eats transcripts
A US man who had been convicted on a second-degree murder charge will get a new trial after a computer virus destroyed transcripts of court proceedings.
Randy Chaviano, of Hialeah, Florida, was given a life sentence for the fatal shooting of Carlos Acosta after he was convicted by a Miami jury in July 2009. An appeal was lodged when it was discovered that only a partial record of the trial that led to Chaviano's conviction could be found.
In the circumstances the Third District Court of Appeal had no option but to strike the conviction and order a fresh trial.
Court stenographers normally record proceedings on both paper and digital disk. But Terlesa Cowart, stenographer at Chaviano's 2009 trial, forgot to bring enough rolls of paper and relied on digital recordings alone to chronicle proceedings. She transferred this data to her PC and erased it from the stenograph. Cowart has been fired for the monumental screw-up, The Miami Herald reports.
Bad move. The PC subsequently became infected by an unidentified virus, causing the destruction of the records. No secure backup was taken, so the state will be put through the expense of a second trial that will cause, at the very least, inconvenience for witnesses and heartache for the victim's family.
Commentary on the security implications of the case can be found in a blog post by Sophos here. ®
So the rules are that both the hardcopy and electronic copy are generated, which she ignored rather than admit to not having enough paper rolls and (presumably) forcing a recess while more were obtained.
She also chose to delete the transcript from the steno machine before she'd lodged it in archive or taking a second copy, rather than coming back and doing so afterwards, ensuring that the only copy was on her own PC.
Conclusion: *She* did not back up properly, there's no "they" involved here. The anti-virus fuckup (if there was one - we could be in zero-day land here) is immaterial as disk failure, dropping the machine or a whole slew of other possibilities could have easily produced the same results.
New excuse for kids: the virus ate my homework!
So they did not back up properly, and they did not have adequate anti-virus protection. Methinks Ms Cowart is not the only one who might be fired.
Monumental cock-up indeed.
Can't really blame the clerk...
I don't see anywhere in this article or the two linked ones any statement that the clerk wasn't told of the dangers. However I did note in the newspaper article that she made a habit of not bringing enough paper rolls with her to work. She transferred the files from her stenography machine to her PC then erased the disk of the former. Sounds generally slap-dash and incompetent to me. Definite FAIL