Stenographer Error Gives Convicted Murderer A New Trial

A mistake by a stenographer has resulted in the retrial of a convicted murderer in Florida.

When convicted killer Randy Chaviano appealed his 2009 life sentence, it was brought to light that most of the trials transcript proceedings disappeared, prompting the Miami Third District Court of Appeal to throw out the conviction and give 26-year-old Chaviano an entirely new trial.

The stenographer, Terlesa Cowart, decided to put the trial transcript on an internal disc and erase the data from the stenography machine memory disc, according to the Miami Herald.

She backed up the disk containing the transcripts on her computer, but it was deleted as a result of a computer virus. Only a pretrial transcript and closing arguments were left.

Goldman Naccarato Patterson Vela & Associates Inc., the firm of which Cowart was an employee during the murder trial, said she had a record of failing to carry a sufficient amount of the paper for court proceedings. She was fired for the incident.

According to, Chaviano was found guilty of second- degree murder with a weapon and armed drug dealing in 2005. While Chaviano sold drugs to Carlos Acosta, the two men got into an argument and Chaviano shot Acosta and planted a gun on his dead body.

Chaviano’s attorney said he was acting out of self-defense.

According to, the Miami- Dade County is advocating that the paper-and-disk model of recording court proceedings be replaced by digital means.

A spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office apologized for the stenographer’s mistake saying that, “The overturning of a murder conviction always means terrible pain for the victim's family and frustration for prosecutors and police officers. Overturning a murder conviction because of a court reporter's problem creates a brand new level of pain and frustration.”

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