Dallas judge orders further review of transcripts in Routier case

By Mede Nix Star-Telegram Dallas Bureau

DALLAS -- An independent court reporter will review transcripts of jury selection and other hearings in the Darlie Routier capital murder case to make sure the records are accurate, a district judge ruled yesterday.

The ruling by District Judge Robert Francis came at the request of Routier's attorneys, who wanted a review of the entire court record prepared by court reporter Sandra Halsey. The same independent court reporter, Susan Simmons, reconstructed transcripts from testimony in Routier's trial after several mistakes were found in the original.

Francis last month certified the reconstructed transcripts as accurate for Routier's appeal. But Routier's appellate attorney, Stephen Cooper, argued that if mistakes were found in the testimony transcript, errors may have been made in transcripts from almost a month of jury selection and in pretrial hearings.

The issue of whether the new transcript is acceptable for Routier's appeal of her conviction remains unresolved. Although Francis' finding that the reworked trial transcript is accurate carries weight, the final decision is up to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, attorneys said.

Cooper said he has substantial grounds on which to challenge the reconstructed transcript. Cooper said that because Simmons was not present at the trial, she cannot verify that her reconstruction is an accurate reflection of what happened. Cooper also contends that the reconstructed transcript was created using audio tapes, which is illegal, he said.

And now that Simmons will be reviewing another 17,000 pages of transcripts, attorneys estimated it may be months before the appeals court can finally decide on the transcript issue.

If the record is not deemed acceptable for appellate purposes, Routier could get a new trial. She was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in an attack at her Rowlett home in 1996 in which her two young sons, Devon and Damon, were killed. She contends that an intruder killed her sons.

Routier, who has been in the Lew Sterrett Justice Center since the hearings on the transcripts began in the fall, appeared in court yesterday for the 10-minute hearing.