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?


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?

  • 4
    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 '21 at 22:05
  • 1
    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 '21 at 15:15
  • @pboss3010 Are jurors allowed to take notes?
    – AJM
    Apr 23 '21 at 13:06
  • @AJM-Reinstate-Monica - They were in this case. youtu.be/OVq9SFwSmao?t=28214 Apr 23 '21 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 '21 at 19:38

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.


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?).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.