Defendant Drex Anthony Ford was charged, tried, and convicted and appropriately sentenced for committing second degree murder of William Cummings, Jr. From his conviction and sentence, defendant appeals, relying on two assignments of error. Because we find merit in the first of these assignments, we pretermit consideration of the other.
The facts from which this error arose occurred in the following manner. Defendant's trial was held on September 17 and 18, 1974. For reasons which are unexplained,
At the time defendant Ford was tried,
The official revision comment to article 843 reasserted the rule that all proceedings must be recorded in felony cases, and explained that article 843 provided for this recordation so that the record would "be available to be transcribed if designated to support an assignment of error." As is clear from the official comment to the article as formerly written, the recordation requirement makes it possible for the party alleging the error to accurately present it for review. When no record at all is available of a portion of the trial, a defendant
The state argues that the failure of the court reporter to provide a complete record of the proceedings should not require an automatic reversal of defendant's conviction, but that he must allege "factual prejudice" before a reversal is required. In order to determine the merits of the state's contention, we find instructive the federal jurisprudence construing a federal provision very similar to the Louisiana statute at issue here. The federal statute provides that a court reporter "shall record verbatim. . . all proceedings in criminal cases had in open court." 28 U.S.C. § 753(b). In cases where no transcript was made of a portion of the trial, the federal courts have consistently applied the provision strictly ruling that the requirement is mandatory and that a new trial was required. Hardy v. United States, 375 U.S. 277, 84 S.Ct. 424, 11 L.Ed.2d 331 (1964); Herron v. United States, 512 F.2d 439 (4th Cir. 1975); Fowler v. United States, 310 F.2d 66 (5th Cir. 1962). The United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that the statutory provisions "are designed to preserve a correct and authentic record of criminal proceedings free from the infirmities of human error and they provide a safeguard to which not only the court but also the defendant is entitled in the preservation of his rights." United States v. Taylor, 303 F.2d 165, 169 (4th Cir. 1962).
The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has been especially vigilant in requiring a reversal, even if no particular prejudice has been alleged, when defendant's counsel on appeal is a different person from trial counsel and a portion of the transcript is unavailable. United States v. Upshaw, 448 F.2d 1218 (5th Cir. 1971), cert, denied, 405 U.S. 934, 92 S.Ct. 970, 30 L.Ed.2d 810 (1972); United States v. Garcia-Bonifascio, 443 F.2d 914 (5th Cir. 1971); United States v. Atilus, 425 F.2d 816 (5th Cir. 1970). In United States v. Atilus, supra, the Fifth Circuit reversed a conviction where counsel on appeal was not counsel at trial, and no trial transcript was available, stating:
Our Court has at least twice reversed convictions because of infirmities in the record available to the Court for review. In State v. Bizette, 334 So.2d 392 (La.1976), we remanded a case for new trial when the recording equipment used at the trial malfunctioned, and we were unable to adequately review the trial court's denial of defendant's motion for acquittal.
In Louisiana, as in the federal courts, an appeal from a felony conviction is an absolute right. La.Const. art. VII, § 10
For the reasons assigned, the conviction and sentence of defendant Ford is reversed and remanded for retrial.
SANDERS, C. J., dissents with written reasons.
SUMMERS, J., dissents for the reasons assigned by the Chief Justice.
SANDERS, Chief Justice (dissenting).
The Court Reporter failed to record a portion of the proceeding at defendant's trial. Holding that Article 843 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure makes recordation mandatory, the majority reverses the conviction and orders a new trial. I disagree.
In his Per Curiam, the trial judge states:
It is well established that a defendant may waive a statutory right such as that set forth in Article 843. See State v. Porter, 176 La. 673,146 So. 465 (1933); State v. Scruggs, 165 La. 842, 116 So. 206 (1928); State v. Mischiro, 165 La. 705, 115 So. 909 (1928).
The appropriate action, in my opinion, would be to order the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to ascertain if trial counsel waived the statutory right contained in LSA-C.Cr.P. 843. If no waiver occurred, the trial judge should also determine at the evidentiary hearing whether or not the failure of recordation prejudiced the appellate review of any defense objections. See, e.g., State v. Bias, La., 337 So.2d 426 (1976); State v. Simmons, La., 328 So.2d 149 (1976). I would not disturb the conviction at this time.
For the reasons assigned, I respectfully dissent.