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After the closing statements in the Chauvin murder trial, the judge says the following to the jury before they retire to consider their verdict:

"You will take with you into the jury room, copies of the instructions that I am reading to you. The lawyers and I have determined that these instructions contain all the laws that are necessary for you to know in order to decide the case. I cannot give you a trial transcript; no such transcript exists. We count on the jury to rely on its collective memory ..."

So what was the court recorder doing all this time if no transcript exists? Is it always the case that the jury don't have a transcript? Why don't they - wouldn't it be useful?


Afterthought

Given the advances of technology, it should be easy these days to produce a printout pretty quickly. Is there a case to made to start doing this even though it might have been impractical in the past?

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    My understanding is that the court recorder takes notes which can be turned into an official transcript later, but that it's not a real-time process. So it may well be that no transcript exists now, but one will eventually (sometimes only if it's needed for appeal, or the parties pay for it to be prepared). Can't find a source to back this up, though. Apr 19, 2021 at 22:05
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    My personal experience as juror says it's true, you don't get a transcript, you're supposed to rely on your notes, memory and the exhibits submitted into the record.
    – pboss3010
    Apr 20, 2021 at 15:15
  • @pboss3010 Are jurors allowed to take notes?
    – AJM
    Apr 23, 2021 at 13:06
  • @AJM-Reinstate-Monica - They were in this case. youtu.be/OVq9SFwSmao?t=28214 Apr 23, 2021 at 14:15
  • @NateEldredge I've certainly read transcripts in which the lawyer asking the questions asked the court reporter to read back testimony from earlier in the same examination or deposition. So it's certainly possible to some extent.
    – phoog
    May 28, 2021 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

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The court reporter keeps a contemporaneous, verbatim, shorthand record of the proceedings (and often has an audio tape to refer to as well), and the official copies of exhibits admitted into evidence are also maintained by the court.

But, the final version of the official transcript takes at least a couple of days per day of testimony the court reporter heard to finalize (and, of course, a court reporter doesn't necessarily work transcribing day after day on one case, the court reporter may have other jobs to take down testimony at the same time that an official transcript based upon testimony that the court reporter previous took down in shorthand is requested, it can often take weeks or months).

Sometimes drafts of official transcripts are provided to the testifying persons or counsel for review to catch errors in transcription, before being finalized. I don't know what Minnesota practice is on that fine detail in criminal trial transcripts.

The official transcript is used for purposes of appeal (and usually only actually prepared in final form only if there is an appeal) and sometimes for post-trial motions, but is not prepared in time to be available to the jury, and is quite expensive (several hundred U.S. dollars to single digit thousands of U.S. dollars per typical day of testimony).

Given the advances of technology, it should be easy these days to produce a printout pretty quickly. Is there a case to made to start doing this even though it might have been impractical in the past?

It isn't unheard of (especially in big dollar commercial cases) to have a private court reporter making a working copy of a transcript that is available in real time or by early evening after each day of testimony, but these working copies are not done to the same standards of accuracy as official trial transcripts for purposes of appeal and are done at a high price premium by elite court reporters who can transcribe faster than the average court reporter can.

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  • How hard would it be to have a court reporter available to the jury to answer questions about the testimony? If some jurors want to convict because they remember a witness saying one thing, and some others want to acquit because they remember the witness saying something else, allowing the jurors to ask what the witness said would seem better than having conviction or acquittal depend upon which jurors are more assertive.
    – supercat
    Mar 28, 2023 at 20:19
  • @supercat Often impossible as a practical matter, and they are not allowed in any case. Jurors aren't allowed to rely on transcripts or access transcripts (where I practice, anyway).
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 28, 2023 at 20:43
  • That seems unfortunate, since in many cases a juror would have no way of knowing which parts of one witness' testimony would be important until after they've heard some other witness.
    – supercat
    Mar 28, 2023 at 22:19
  • @supercat The jury trial system is without a doubt an archaic system that isn't optimized for precisely correct results. Basically, the conceptual gambit, right or wrong, is that it is trading precision for accuracy (i.e. lack of bias).
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 28, 2023 at 22:21
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Evidence is recorded

s39 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 requires witness evidence (testimony) to be recorded. This is increasingly through audio-visual technology rather than shorthand. This may or may not be transcribed during the trial at the discretion of the judge - it usually isn't.

The jury may ask for a transcript, the judge decides if they get it

s55C of the Jury Act 1977 says:

A copy of all or any part of the transcript of evidence at a trial or inquest may, at the request of the jury, be supplied to the members of the jury if the judge or coroner considers that it is appropriate and practicable to do so.

Providing a transcript that doesn’t yet exist is unlikely to be practicable within the time constraints of a normal jury trial.

In any event, it is more common than not that such requests are refused as inappropriate unless the jury only asks for a very specific part of the transcript (e.g. witness no 2 was asked about the flavour of their ice cream - can we get that question and answer?).

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