Man convicted of murder gets retrial after virus eats transcripts

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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. ®

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