Nearly 10 years have passed since relatives found a murdered mother on a bloody air mattress with her unharmed infant huddled by her body.
That was Nov. 16, 2005, when family found 24-year-old Mary Rodgers shot dead in 110-A E.J. Knight Gardens Apartments at 3811 Baker Plaza Drive in Columbus, where she’d lived for about two weeks after fleeing her Biloxi, Miss., home to escape Hurricane Katrina.
Beside the body was Rodgers’ 3-month-old infant daughter.
Rodgers’ family told authorities that having come to Columbus to be with a sister stationed at Fort Benning, Rodgers decided to stay after the storm destroyed her Biloxi home.
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Her boyfriend Antonio Jerome Magee, a native of Gulfport, Miss., also moved here, though Rodgers’ family said Rodgers was trying to end their relationship.
After investigators learned neighbors last saw Rodgers with Magee, they went looking for the boyfriend. Magee fled to Atlanta, where U.S. Marshals tracked him down the following Nov. 23. On April 25, 2008, Magee was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
On Tuesday, he was back in Muscogee Superior Court for a hearing on his seeking a new trial. But his effort was hampered by an odd impediment: The original transcript of his trial was missing.
Reported to have been a four-volume set the trial’s court reporter initially filed on April 29, 2008, it was replaced July 11, 2008, by three volumes found to have errors. The original four-volume transcript vanished.
Another issue complicated matters: The court reporter’s license had been suspended April 1, 2008, weeks before Magee’s trial April 22-25, 2008. In January 2009, the reporter’s license was revoked, according to court records.
During Magee’s appeal, attorneys discovered an audio recording of the trial still was available, and a second court reporter was asked to compare that to the three-volume transcript and note any errors. Yet the issue remains unresolved. It was a quandary Tuesday for Superior Court Judge William Rumer, who did not preside at Magee’s trial, but now has inherited his case. The trial judge, Robert Johnston III, retired March 15, 2010, and died a year later.
Rumer said the available three-volume transcript has “serious errors,” adding: “The three-volume transcript we know is inaccurate.”
Prosecutor Brad Bickerstaff suggested Magee’s defense attorney Long Vo of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council compare the trial’s audio recording to the three-volume transcript and note any errors.
That’s not the defense attorney’s responsibility, under Georgia law, Rumer said: The law says the state is obligated to provide the defense with an accurate, certified copy of the trial transcript.
The judge finally asked both Bickerstaff and Lo in five days to draft proposed orders for him to consider, each suggesting how best to resolve the matter.