Muscogee Superior Court Judge William Rumer granted Antonio Jerome Magee a new trial in 2017 after accusing the court reporter in the earlier proceedings of "faking her job," The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.
“It was a ruse to make all believe that she was taking it down word for word,” the judge wrote. “She was not.”
Magee was found guilty in 2008 of murder and reckless conduct and sentenced to life in prison in the 2005 death of his girlfriend, Mary Rodgers, in Columbus. The couple had fled Mississippi with their 3-month-old daughter during Hurricane Katrina.
Prosecutors said Magee shot Rodgers multiples times at a Columbus apartment. She died with her daughter on a bed in the next room, they said.
Court reporter Sharon Dilleshaw transcribed Magee's three-day trial, weeks after her professional certification was suspended. She also filed a partial transcript filled with errors. Trial transcripts document the trial, from the evidence presented to remarks from the judge, lawyers and witnesses.
Dilleshaw's certification was suspended because she failed to renew it.
In 2013, attorneys for Magee filed objections to his conviction over the botched transcript. Rummer, who did not preside over the first trial, found an average of 4.6 errors per page, for a total of 1,384 mistakes, according to the paper.
Separate audio records were also incomplete, leading Rumer to conclude that there was “no other method available to produce a true and accurate record of the Magee trial.”
“Typically, Dilleshaw will begin talking and following the testimony, but she stops and falls off quickly into silence,” Rumer wrote. “There are many times when Dilleshaw will whisper gibberish into the mask."
“It was a ruse to make all believe that she was taking it down word for word. She was not," he added.
He said he had never before heard of a case being overturned because of a faked transcript.
Magee’s attorney, Jennifer Curry, said she has discussed a plea deal with prosecutors.
“We do have some issues with witnesses,” she told the newspaper last week. “At least two witnesses from the original trial are now deceased, and there are a couple of other witnesses that I’m not sure the state will be able to get here in time, so we’re still looking at that.”
Magee is still being held in detention.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.