A convicted murderer has been granted a retrial after a stenographer's backup record of his trial was apparently destroyed by a malware infection.
The possibly unique sequence of events came to a head when Randy Chaviano, 26, appealed against his 2009 conviction in a Florida court for shooting Charles Acosta during an alleged drug deal.
When the Appeal Court discovered that almost no records of the trial still existed, the judge the struck down the conviction and ordered a retrial.
According to Florida press sources, the stenographer tasked to record the trial had deleted primary records held on a 'memory disc' used in the stenography process before the electronic backup made to a PC was also destroyed after an unspecified malware infection.
All that survived were some pre-trial notes and closing arguments made by the defence and prosecution. The paper records that are usually made by stenography machines were apparently not made in full, which means that the legal recording process failed in three separate media.
"The overturning of a murder conviction always means terrible pain for the victim's family and frustration for prosecutors and police officers," Ed Griffith of the Miami-Dade Attorney's Office was reported as saying.
"Overturning a murder conviction because of a court reporter's problem creates a brand new level of pain and frustration," he said.
Exactly what went wrong with the stenographer's PC is a mystery. Normally, even data from a non-functioning hard disk can be recovered at relatively low cost using a specialised service.