11/14/98 By Holly Becka / The Dallas Morning News
A note prepared for the jury in the Darlie Routier capital murder trial
does not match the transcript of testimony, and the transcript contained
other errors and inconsistencies, officials said Friday.
Stephen Cooper, one of Ms. Routier's appeals attorneys, said he can't say
whether the transcript problems, particularly those concerning the note
on Darin Routier's testimony, could lead to the conviction being
overturned. But, Mr. Cooper said he considers the problems serious enough
to warrant a review of the entire transcript.
"When she [the court reporter] prepared what I call the read-back for the
jury, pursuant to their question, that came out in one manner," Mr.
Cooper said. "And then when that same testimony was transcribed in the
appellate record, it is different than what had been read back to the
He said the official court record is more detailed and expansive than
what was read back to the jury of Mr. Routier's testimony.
"There were actual phrases and questions left out," he said. "I'll be
candid: When you read the two, the gist is the same, but this is not a
gist business. . . . If what's taken down is wrong or not accurately
reported, it could change the entire case."
Ms. Routier was sentenced to death last year in the stabbing death of her
Norman Kinne, Dallas County first assistant district attorney, said that
at this point, he doesn't think the inconsistencies in the court record,
including in the note to the jury, will threaten the conviction in the
"So far, I don't believe that what we're talking about is that serious of
an error," he said.
Three court reporters who examined random pages from four volumes of the
official court record said they found discrepancies between the court
reporter's stenographic notes and the transcript. The three testified
Friday at a hearing requested by Ms. Routier's attorneys.
It also was learned Friday that audio recordings of Ms. Routier's trial
do exist, despite previous testimony from court reporter Sandra Halsey
that there were none. The tapes could make it easier to determine if the
transcript is in error.
Prosecutors told state District Judge Robert Francis that on Thursday
night they retrieved what are believed to be the trial's audio recordings
from Ms. Halsey's personal storage facility in Plano.
The three court reporters who reviewed transcript portions testified
Friday that Ms. Halsey also had told them that no recordings existed.
The hearing was put on hold Friday after Ms. Halsey was called to the
stand. Judge Francis informed Ms. Halsey of her rights and appointed her
an attorney, who requested a continuance until Monday.
Mr. Kinne said Ms. Halsey could recant her testimony to avoid possible
perjury charges, he said.
"I assume she will have an explanation for this Monday," he said. "We're
waiting now to hear her explanation of this contradiction."
Ms. Halsey, who is not employed by the district attorney's office, may
face disciplinary action from the professional organization that licenses
court reporters or from state District Judge Faith Johnson, for whom she
"We don't expect court reporters who are involved in the legal system and
in court on a daily basis to get up and say things under oath that are
not true," Mr. Kinne said.
He and Mr. Cooper said they couldn't remember another time when such a
thing had happened.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin issued a contempt judgment
against Ms. Halsey earlier this year for failing to finish the Routier
transcript on time.
Ms. Halsey had said the delays were caused by the family emergencies of
two assistants and by conflicting instructions from the court.
Mr. Kinne said it's not clear what effect the apparent mistakes in the
Routier transcript would have on other cases in which Ms. Halsey has been
the court reporter.
"We're more concerned right now with this case," he said. "It's probably
going to require a review of the entire record to guarantee its
authenticity. Then we'll worry about what happens to any other cases
she's a court reporter in."