Faulty Court Reporting May Lead To New Trial For Convicted Killer
Posted February 21, 2006
LUMBERTON, N.C. — Technicalities can make or break a court case. In the case of convicted killer Travis Walters, a court reporter took such bad notes that Walters may get another trial.
Walters robbed a fast food restaurant in Lumberton in 1998 and killed assistant manager Betty Jane Oxendine. Her father Bradley Oxendine wanted justice, and he got it. The jury found Walters guilty and sentenced him to death.
"He didn't only kill her, he killed three more in the family (who) might as well be killed" said Bradley Oxendine.
But the case took two unexpected turns. First, a Supreme Court ruling got Walters off Death Row. Now, sloppy court reporting could mean even bigger changes.
The court reporter did such a bad job taking notes and recording testimony that the appeals court can't review the case. Walters' first appeals lawyer Carlton Mansfield said the trial transcript was in shambles.
"There were pages out of order," said Mansfield. "There were pages that were just missing."
The court asked another reporter to salvage what she could. She tried, but came up short. She told the court it looks like the reporter, "ad-libs, fills in, deletes or ignores what is written in his notes."
The second reporter was left frustrated. So is Oxendine's father.
"Mad, sad, and disgusted," said Bradley Oxendine.
The prosecutor who tried the case said, "It's unfortunate for the victim's family to go through this again." Oxendine's father stops by her grave daily.
"Death ain't no easy thing to face," he said. "But, this here is even a little (worse)."
Bradley Oxendine always says goodbye to her, and wishes he could do the same with the case.
The state had a court reporter shortage during those years. Some courts hired people -- such as the one in this case -- who weren't certified. WRAL was unable to contact him. The court plans to rule on whether to have a new trial in a few months.