Kaine Calls Special Session for Evidence Fix

Gov. Tim Kaine has called a special legislative session for Aug. 19 to deal with the effects of a recent Supreme Court decision.

The governor made the announcement at a press conference this morning.

Kaine said the decision, in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, could cause judges to dismiss charges in drug and drunken driving cases. Last month, justices ruled 5-4 that lab evidence is inadmissible unless the technician who performed the analysis comes to court to testify.

“We believed initially that we could take care of this through some administrative changes to court rules and procedures,” Kaine said. “But we’ve concluded that would still leave some questions and that statutory changes are important.”

A possible fix, Kaine said, will likely involve a combination of administrative moves, changes to state law and increased duties for lab techs. A state contingency fund will pay for the overtime fees. The governor said he didn’t have a definitive price estimate, but offered his assurance that the fund could absorb the cost.

Kaine said lawmakers will take up only this issue when they reconvene and that the work should take about a day to complete.

“This is not at all a partisan or political issue,” the governor said. “It’s an important public safety issue to get right.”

Kaine said discussions with prosecutors led him to call back the legislature.

Lawmakers lauded the decision. State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), the GOP nominee for attorney general, pushed hard for a special session.

“The problems caused by Melendez are growing daily,” he said in a statement.

My previous reporting on this topic:

Sotomayor Could Affect Va. Evidence Fight

Short-term Evidence Fix Likely

In Depth: Evidence Ruling Potentially “Horrific”

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