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Microsoft The Courts

Child Abuse Verdict Held Back By MS Word Glitch 191

Posted by samzenpus
from the messy-verdict dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last week several defendants including one high-profile TV presenter were sentenced in Portugal in what has been known as the Casa Pia scandal. The judges delivered on September 3 a summary of the 2000-page verdict, which would be disclosed in full only three days later. The disclosure of the full verdict has been postponed from September 8 to a yet-to-be-announced date, allegedly because the full document was written in several MS Word files which, when merged together, retained 'computer related annotations which should not be present in any legal document.' (Google translated article.) Microsoft specialists were called in to help the judges sort out the 'text formatting glitch,' while the defendants and their lawyers eagerly wait to access the full text of the verdict."
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Child Abuse Verdict Held Back By MS Word Glitch

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  • 2000 pages... (Score:4, Informative)

    by geogob (569250) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:32AM (#33551430)

    But who would ever think of using word to typeset a 2000 page document build from multiple sources. All my experiences with MS Word tell me that this is going to be a nightmare how ever you try to do it and what ever the content of the document is.

  • Re:Microsoft WORD? (Score:3, Informative)

    by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:57AM (#33551516)

    I was surprised when I heard this was related to Microsoft Word. Don't most lawyers use Wordperfect?

    No, they use IBM GML, aka "Bookmaster" : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Generalized_Markup_Language [wikipedia.org]

  • by Arrepiadd (688829) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:13AM (#33551568)

    Putting this on Slashdot without giving more the info on this case (which would have very hard) is prone to disaster.

    This has been the longest running case in Portuguese justice and has been full of stupid decision since day one. When this whole thing blew up (6 years ago or so) a few of the key people on the process were arrested and put in jail while the investigation was going. The theory was that there was the danger they would flee the country. Some were left there for the maximum time they can be arrested before a trial, while others after several months in jail were released and no charges were made against them (so maybe they shouldn't have been put in jail in the first place). From the ones that were put in jail and later released, none fled the country. So the first decision on this process was already a mess and a good start for the entire thing.

    The trial was huge and went on for 6 years,the longest even in Portugal. There were 900 witnesses, 7 lawyers for the defendants and also the prosecutors. Since every one of these lawyers and the prosecutors has the right to talk to the witnesses this leads to about 7000 cross-interrogations. Whatever can be taken from 900 people and not summarized by 50 or 100 people (remember, this is a case about child-abuse, not country-wide rigging of elections or whatever) is still to be understood.

    The victims, in many instances, failed to offer clear evidence anything at all. They couldn't be precise on dates on when things happened, on places where things happened, on people present. It gets to the point of one supposed places where the abuses happened is described not by the exact address but by "an apartment with an odd door number on street [whatever]" (in Portugal buildings on one side of the street have odd numbers, on the other side even, so in practice they were just able to say we enter a building on this side of the street). One guy is accused of abusing a boy but the time span is described as "on the second trimester of year XXXX". I wonder how many of us could provide a solid alibi spanning 3 months... I'm not trying to defend no one here, but there were, but as far as we get to know, there was no clear solid evidence to anything. There aren't even phone calls between the abusers and the supposed ring leaders or anyone involved. People abuse other people for years and no phone call is ever made to set up any meetings and so on.

    Now going to the decision itself, it was supposed to be read in June, later postponed to July due to lack of time to write it and then to September (there are "judicial holidays" in August in Portugal) as they still had no time to finish it. When the day of presenting it finally came, they attorneys were not given the decision by the judges, as it still had to be finalized. All sentences in Portugal are presented to the defendant when the paperwork is already on the Ministery of Justice system and can be accessed right away (to start preparing for appeals and so on). Not this one, because it was too big, with 2000 pages, and it had still to be finalized. The date of presenting the decision was Sep 3, the date of finally having the paper work was then said to be the Sep 8. That day came and things were postponed one day because there was a problem with the making of the PDF due to the size of the document. Next day it was postponed again to the 10th and it was a problem with the printer, generically described as a "computer problem", common nowadays when things go south. Friday by the middle of the afternoon the news came out everything will be finished by Monday. And yesterday there was this piece in the same newspaper as presented above:
    Delay due to virus [publico.pt] (Only in Portuguese, google translate should be as good as before)
    So the reason has been changing with time and the most likely reason is the judges' inability to finish the thing on time (not wanting to go into the lack of skills vs lack of t

  • Re:2000 pages... (Score:5, Informative)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:42AM (#33551654) Homepage

    Work Perfect had it about right and this is part of the reason why those who operate in the legal community stayed with Word Perfect for as long as they could. Formatting in legal documents simply must be precise. Work Perfect allowed "low level" editing of formats to prevent that from happening.

    On an almost regular basis, I have MS Word users dealing with company documents working with a particular template who, for inexplicable reasons end up with an extra page in the document so that a 5 page document says "page 5 of 6" in the header. For whatever reason, though, when the blank page gets removed, the formatting disappears with it and the whole template formatting is destroyed.

    One might argue "the template is wrong" or that the user is doing it wrong somehow. Either of these may be true, but the fact is, they are unable to correct the errors just by looking at them because strange and unexpected things happen when different things are inserted and deleted.

    In any case, Word Perfect has historically manages Word Perfect documents of all sizes without much trouble.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:56AM (#33551678) Journal

    Correct. If they'd been using OpenOffice.org, they'd have turned off the change tracking feature in disgust after the third time the computer paused for several seconds while making a minor edit and gone back to making a secretary manually merge the documents.

    I've never used this feature in MS Office, so I don't know if it's any better, but it's an absolute disaster in OO.o. So bad, in fact, that the last project I was on, they decided to move to LaTeX for the next version because change management is easier and they decided the time spent learning LaTeX would be less than the time wasted with OO.o.

  • Re:Microsoft WORD? (Score:4, Informative)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:57AM (#33551686) Homepage

    He's right about that. Legal offices are the last holdouts on Word Perfect. The formatting is quite precise and predictable. Legal office workers are quite adept at editing with WP's "show codes" mode to ensure than everything is formatted exactly and correctly. While I believe it is true that MS Word also offers a feature like this, I'm not sure that people actually use it... or know how to for that matter.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:03AM (#33551706) Journal
    To clarify this point: Read TF PDF spec. The format was designed from the start to be alterable. It starts with a list of objects. The end of the file contains a linked list of dictionaries of objects, giving their locations in the file. You can edit a PDF, preserving all previous versions, simply by appending some new objects, a new dictionary that references these with a higher version number, and links back to the previous dictionary. The nice thing about this design is that you can update a PDF without overwriting anything, just by appending. You can then compact the PDF in a separate step, removing unreferenced objects and writing a single dictionary.
  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:27AM (#33551748) Journal
    I use this in Open Office all the time without problems.

    What version were you using, and was it with Word or ODF documents?

  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @08:25AM (#33552194)

    Your report of this whole mess is terribly uninformed and one-sided. Let me add a few details which are fundamental to understanding this case:

    For example, you claimed that the reason behind placing the key suspects in preventative jail terms was to prevent them fleeing the country. What you opted to omit was the fact that there was the impending danger that if they remained free they would try their best to tamper with the investigation, either by tampering witnesses, destroying evidence and conspire with the remaining criminal network to corrupt and derail the judicial process. That's the reason behind the decision to lock them out while the investigation was ongoing. Yet, even though the judges ordered the arrest of the main suspects, they still managed to tamper with the investigation. One example was how Inês Serra Lopes, a journalist which also happened to be the daughter of an attorney defending the main suspect, was caught planting evidence exonerating her father's client [diario.iol.pt].

    Then, that which you describe as "the victims, in many instances, failed to offer clear evidence anything at all" is a deceitful description of the whole process. I'll point it out to you that this was a child abuse case, where the suspects were charged with the crimes of sexually abusing children between the age of 10 and 14 years old. There were over 30 reported victims, all of which were proven to have been sexually molested through multiple forensic tests. Then, what you describe as "failed to offer clear evidence" was small nit-picking details such as asking a then 10 year old boy the exact day, hour and minute he was sexually abused by suspect X, something which happened over 10 years ago. Besides that, although there were 30 victims and the suspects were accused of committing hundreds of crimes, only a hand full were considered to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, to which it also contributed the fact that one suspect confessed to the crimes and implicated all the other suspects, something which you conveniently omitted.

    Your post has far more deceitful or simply uninformed bits but I believe these facts I've pointed out are enough to get a clear picture of the case.

  • Re:PDF alterability (Score:3, Informative)

    by LordLimecat (1103839) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @08:47AM (#33552298)
    PDF is alterable with notepad++, to clarify TheRaven64's point. Its not terribly difficult if you want to alter straight up text.
  • copy/paste ftw (Score:3, Informative)

    by bidule (173941) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @08:56AM (#33552326) Homepage

    Pick any format-aware application that doesn't handle Microsoft's bloat and paste those 2000 pages. Problem solved!

  • Re:2000 pages... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:22AM (#33552462)
    Actually, the "draw" refers to disembowelment - while alive, and preferably conscious.. There may be some emasculation and beheading thrown in for good measure.
  • The solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anne Honime (828246) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:36AM (#33552560)

    In most situations, when you can't get rid of unwanted text that's sticky in word, do : CTRL+A, CTRL+C, CTRL+N, CTRL+V

    Then keep on editing as usual.

    (and I'm not even kidding)

  • Re:Why so long? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:45AM (#33553006)

    The real story here is why is a verdict 2000 pages long? Wouldn't a single page or two suffice?

    A standard verdict form is lengthy because each count of an indictment is addressed separately. If there are multiple counts, and multiple defendants, each defendant's counts will be listed and verdict rendered. This is standard practice, and ensures that the outcome of each charge is clear, point by point.

  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug@geekaz ... minus herbivore> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:20AM (#33553264) Homepage

    Select All.
    Copy.
    Open Notepad.
    Paste.
    Select All.
    Copy.
    Open a new Word doc.
    Paste.
    Save.

  • by thethibs (882667) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:42AM (#33553396) Homepage

    If you're going to merge documents from multiple sources, it helps not to do it in the stupidest possible way.

    Start by reading each source and saving them all in the same format/version. This is as simple as Open... SaveAs...

    If you have duelling styles, resolve them in a single .dot you'll use for the result and resolve the conflicts. That's what the Styles and Formatting dialog is for. That assumes that you have a clue about using styles.

    You can't expect Word to make aesthetic decisions for you, or to resolve different, equally valid, formatting decisions made by different authors.

    Hint: you don't "delete a bunch of bullets;" you give the text a different style.

  • by TavisJohn (961472) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:27PM (#33553638) Homepage

    Then do it the old way!

    Copy & Paste people! Make a new TXT document, then open each word doc, select all, copy, then paste into the new one in the proper order! Formatting is now removed. Either stick with that, select all and copy the TXT file and paste it in a fresh Word DOC.
    Poof now you magically have a single document that has ALL the other documents merged into it.

  • Re:2000 pages... (Score:4, Informative)

    by nanoakron (234907) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:08PM (#33553866)

    No, no - it's even nicer than that.

    Hang - As you say, hanged by the neck until loss of consciousness but still alive.
    Draw - Then they'd wake you back up by cutting into your abdomen and pulling out your intestines. Occasionally, for added fun, they'd burn them in front of you on an open brazier.
    Quarter - As you say, pulled apart by 4 strong cart horses.

    Lovely people.

    Look up 'broken on the wheel' for truly awful torture.

  • by Doctor O (549663) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:49PM (#33556262) Homepage Journal

    Depends on the creator of the PDF, though. I wanted to code a quick and dirty web app for customizing business cards, so I remembered that it was just like you said, and all I had to do is open up the InDesign layouts, replace the name with $name$, the address with $address$ and so on and export a PDF X/3 for printing. I'd then have the user input the values and just search and replace the variable names with the values entered.

    Only that the resulting PDF contained none of my field names. It was a PDF which could be rendered just fine, but when you opened it up in a text editor, it was basically a blob.

    So I thought that was because I used X/3, maybe it's compressed for that. I then tried every other standard setting it had, to no success. I gave up and changed to using INX (Indesign Exchange Format) which at least contained the text blocks in plain text, but it showed me that in practice, PDF's aren't plain text any more, at least if you use the "professional" from the fucking INVENTORS of the format. It's blobs all the way down.

  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Monday September 13, 2010 @06:19AM (#33559610)

    It's pretty simple.In the "Farfalha" case in Açores, the whole deal was solved in half a year...Not big-shot lawyers, no public figures, justice was swift and hard. Pedos in jail, life goes on.

    In this case, we know all too well what is going on. For instance, if Carlos Cruz is innocent, why is he warning that he'll reveal the list of ALL suspects by the end of the month?

    You have to ask Carlos Cruz himself. All I can do is speculate. Yet, why would a member of a criminal gang who was singled out as a fall guy revolted against the remaining members who did nothing to help him? You know, just like Bibi did with a long list of arguidos, including Paulo Pedroso. Once Bibi realized that he was being singled out and being set up by his fellow pedophile pals as the sole pedofile he started confessing about everyone and everything, which ultimately landed convictions for the remaining arguidos. Now, Carlos Cruz saw himself in the very same position as Bibi, being convicted while the remaining corruption network did nothing to help him (they easily managed to save Paulo Pedroso and Ferro Rodrigues, along with other suspects).

    Why is RTP (public TV, his former employer) endorsing an un-official populist whitewash in his defense?

    You have to ask the RTP people. To me, it all appears to be yet another sign of systemic corruption.

    And why were Pedroso's (former "rising start" socialist minister) and damages overthrown by the appeal court (apparently, the kids who accused him weren't lying...)? Were the kids all delusional? Is our justice system so messed up that 6 years of trial couldn't prove anything?

    Pedroso was taken out of the process due to a mix of changes done to the portuguese penal process, courtesy of Socrates' government, and the court ruling that there were insufficient evidences implicating him. It is also said that Socrates' government put pressure on the investigation in order to save him from being once again implicated. Yet, not only the abused children implicated him in multiple rapes and even Bibi made statements in the court directly implicating him as yet another child predator.

    Regarding Pedroso's damages case, the court ruled that Pedroso's lawsuit had no merit as the kids were patently stating the truth.

    Let's face it: we know that pedophilia is widespread in some areas of Lisbon and a lot of top public figures are into it...Some got caught this time.

    This case only implicated the "small fries" in the criminal network. We have a chauffeur, a doctor, a former ambassador, a lawyer, a former TV presenter and a former director of Casa Pia. Yet, the governing elite such as Paulo Pedroso and Ferro Rodrigues were left out, not to mention the other members Carlos Cruz is threatening to uncover.

    There are also very troubling aspects to this case, which indicate that the criminal ring has terribly deep ties to organized criminal structures which also control the political establishment. For example, João Braga Gonçalves, currently serving time for the Universidade Moderna process, also participated in the defense's campaign to derail the judicial process.

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