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How are speaker errors handled on court ready transcripts?
Speaker errors “speak” for themselves, and they do not need to be highlighted for the jury on the transcript. The jurors will read the transcript with the equivalent error in the translation and can determine, on their own, the significance, if any, to be ascribed to such verbal error, very often stemming from code-switching or the use of an incorrect word. When the transcriber/translator encounters code-switching or other linguistic phenomena, he should not use italics or any other form of punctuation that may constitute editorializing. (SeeSantana v. New York City Transit Authority, 505 N.Y.S.2d 775, 778-79 (Sup. Ct. 1986).
Errors that are difficult to translate, such as the addition of a diphthong to the word diferencia (diferiencia), in general, do not affect the meaning of the utterance. In such cases, the potential prejudice of translator interjections greatly outweighs the potential benefit of parenthetical translator explanations and, additionally, same have a negative impact on the readability of the transcript.
As in the case of court interpreting, the transcriber/translator is required to convey source language meaning through his interpretation, including speaker errors, and the significance of such errors should be left to the jury.
In conclusion, an attempt by the transcriber/translator to explain source language errors, other than through his translation, constitutes an unnecessary interjection by the transcriber/translator, and an intrusion into the matters reserved for the jury.
Do you use abbreviations on final forensic court ready transcripts?
On call summaries and investigative transcripts it is acceptable to use abbreviations such as MV1 to depict the speakers or (UI) for “unintelligible.” However, on the final court-ready transcripts submitted to the client same should be avoided. Abbreviations have a negative impact on the readability of the transcript and may be confusing for the jury. When depicting speaker turns, VOICE 1: rather than MV1, etc., should be used because clients will often request that same be replaced with the speaker’s actual name or alias, this will leave enough room on the transcript for the name and facilitates the effectuation of a universal search and replace rather than having to reformat the transcript to make room for the change. However, it must be noted that if the client requests that the voices be identified by name, the transcriber/translator must include a voice identification disclaimer on the cover page. Same should be a simple statement such as: “VOICE IDENTIFICATIONS PROVIDED BY DEA.” Remember, “An abundance of words leads to transgressions.” If any lengthy explanations are necessary, they should be provided during expert testimony, subject to cross-examination, and not on the transcript.
Additionally, on the final court-ready transcript any unintelligible words or portions should be clearly indicated by using the entire word “unintelligible.” Very often it is impossible to be sure how many unintelligible words constitute the unintelligible portion on the recording so using dots or dashes in brackets to represent unintelligible portions is unnecessary and very often inaccurate. The use of abbreviations such as (UI) instead of (Unintelligible) tend to diminish the significance of the unintelligible portions of the conversation. Intelligibility of the recording is a significant consideration for the judge during an audibility hearing and for the jury during the trial; therefore, on the final court-ready transcript, unintelligible portions should be clearly indicated as such. On the other hand, on investigative transcripts, it is acceptable to use (UI) or other abbreviations to indicate same because of the speed required in cotemporaneous note taking and immediate preparation of a draft transcript for law enforcement during the course of a Title III wire intercept.
In reviewing the proponent’s transcripts, the opposing party may wish to use some of the foregoing points in arguing against the accuracy of and any potential bias in the proponent’s transcripts. Therefore, the transcriber/translator must strive to prepare transcripts that are as legally sound as possible and must be prepared to defend same in court.