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Convert a list with wrong encoding to utf8

Hello, i have tried the following to chnage encoding to utf8 because for some reason it has changed regarding list names

	#populate client listing into list
	names.append( name )
	names.append( '' )

	for name in names:
		name = name.encode('latin1').decode('utf8')

and the error that was presented was:

UnicodeEncodeError('latin-1', '???? ???????', 0, 4, 'ordinal not in range(256)')

Why it cannot encode in latin nad decode in utf8 normally?
And since 'names' are being fetced from mysql database, which they were stored as utf8 strings WHY/HOW the 'names' enrolled in latin-1?