COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — A man convicted of killing his girlfriend in Georgia is scheduled to start a new trial Monday after a judge found a court reporter botched the transcript of his first proceeding by repeatedly failing to relay what was said in court and sometimes inserting gibberish into her voice recordings.
Muscogee Superior Court Judge William Rumer accused the court reporter of “faking her job” during Antoine Jerome Magee’s 2008 trial, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported .
“It was a ruse to make all believe that she was taking it down word for word,” the judge wrote. “She was not.”
In 2017, he ordered a new trial for Magee, 40.
A jury had found Magee guilty of murder and reckless conduct in the 2005 shooting death of his girlfriend, Mary Rodgers, in Columbus. The couple had fled Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. A judge sentenced Magee to life in prison.
But attorneys who took over Magee’s defense in 2013 objected to the trial transcript. The court reporter transcribed the trial by repeating what she heard into a microphone and then writing out the recording later. Her professional certification, however, had lapsed before the trial, and the transcript was riddled with errors, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Rumer, who did not preside over the first trial, found an average of 4.6 errors per transcript page, which over 301 pages would total an estimated 1,384 mistakes, the newspaper said.
Stacey Jackson, who prosecuted Magee in 2008, said he had no idea what the court reporter was doing because the device she used to record her voice hid her mouth.
“You don’t know what she’s saying into it,” Jackson told the Ledger-Enquirer. He said he had never before heard of a case being overturned because of a faked transcript.
Separate audio recordings of the trial, additionally, were incomplete, leading Rumer to conclude that there was “no other method available to produce a true and accurate record of the Magee trial.” Though the judge granted Magee a new trial, Magee remained in custody.
Magee’s attorney, Jennifer Curry, said at least two witnesses from the first trial are dead and others may not be able to make it to court in time. She has discussed a plea deal with the new prosecutor on the case, she said.