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Translated transcripts necessary for jury

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A trial court didn’t abuse its discretion when it admitted transcripts translated into English of drug transactions recorded in Spanish because the jury wouldn’t be able to understand the recording, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Noe Romo challenged the admission of the English transcripts of drug transactions he participated in with a confidential informant in Spanish. Romo, who was convicted of three counts of Class A felony dealing in cocaine, claimed the transcripts could only be admitted and given to the jury if the recordings were admitted and played for the jury. Romo’s attorney at trial argued that Grimes v. State, 633 N.E.2d. 262, 264 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994) says transcripts can only be used to help a jury understand audio tapes, but the trial judge saw no point in playing the Spanish audio when the jury wouldn’t be able to understand it. The judge allowed the transcripts as a substitute because they will “help the trier of fact.” The jury only received the transcripts, but both the transcripts and recordings were admitted into evidence.

In Bryan v. State, 450 N.E.2d 53, 59 (Ind. 1983), the Indiana Supreme Court explicitly discussed that transcripts “may” be necessary when audio is inaudible or to identify speakers, but it also left open the door for other possible circumstances.

“Today, we find that the instant facts present yet a third scenario - one in which the audio recording is not ‘[t]he best evidence of the conversation’ because the recording features a language that is beyond the comprehension of the entire jury,” wrote Judge Carr Darden in Noe Romo v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1003-CR-143.

Given that it was unlikely that the jury would understand enough Spanish and the idiom of the language at issue to understand the recordings, the trial court acted reasonably and within its discretion to give jurors copies of the transcript, the judge continued. There was no abuse of discretion in finding that playing the Spanish recordings as the jury read the English transcripts would not have helped the jury understand the audio and would have been a waste of judicial resources.

The appellate court affirmed that the state laid the proper foundation to establish the accuracy of the transcripts, that Romo wasn’t prejudiced by the admission of the transcripts, and that there was no error in admitting a detective’s opinion testimony. The appellate court inferred based on the detective’s position on the drug task force and his elevated rank that the detective had knowledge beyond that of the average juror regarding narcotics and was sufficiently familiar enough with the language of drug trafficking to provide testimony on the meaning of drug-dealing terms used by Romo in Spanish.
 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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