Friday, April 11, 2008

Who's Got the Transcript?

I came across an interesting piece by a researcher who set out to study some high-profile cases from the 1980s and discovered that transcripts -- even in high-profile cases -- are not always easy to find. Ross E. Cheit, The Elusive Record: On Researching High-Profile 1980s Sexual Abuse Cases, 28 Just. Sys. J. 79 (2007), available on HeinOnline (UW restricted).

Washington is one of the states whose records retention policy provides for keeping all felony transcripts, but even such a policy does not guarantee ready access. In the cases the author researched, some were sealed, some were missing volumes or boxes, some were available only at great cost, and some had been destroyed despite their state's retention policy. In many cases, a transcript isn't prepared in the first place (e.g., if the defendant is acquitted or, if convicted, chooses not to appeal).

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