Lawmakers in Harris County, Texas, are struggling to find missing court records lost due to faulty document management practices. Because a number of case records were misplaced after a court reporter died suddenly, the county court may be facing an appeal in the near future.
According to the Houston Chronicle, that is the plan of attorneys representing Raymond Leal, who was sentenced to 99 years in jail after admitting he killed his wife in December 2009. Recently, court reporter Brenda Burleigh undertook the project of transcribing the trial, including witness testimonies.
However, after Burleigh was killed in a car accident in April, her peers could not locate the files pertaining to Leal's trial. Leal's lawyer, Lester Blizzard, told the Chronicle that around half of the record is missing, including witness testimonies, which is grounds for an appeal. Texas state law holds that in appellate court, despite the fact that Leal admitted guilt in the first trial, he will have the option of entering a not guilty plea and facing a jury.
Courts should consider digitizing their records, as in the event of misplacement or destruction, the data copies would remain intact. Moreover, hosting files on hard drives or other computer storage options makes the physical space of offices more logical and efficient.
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