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GOVERNOR KAINE MUST CALL A SPECIAL SESSION TO CHANGE THE LAB REPORT LAW OR VIOLENT CRIMINALS AND DRUG DEALERS MAY GO FREE!

Post by “Sandy” Sanders

GOVERNOR KAINE MUST CALL A SPECIAL SESSION TO CHANGE THE LAB REPORT LAW OR VIOLENT CRIMINALS AND DRUG DEALERS MAY GO FREE!

I wrote in a previous blog entry here at Virginia Right that McDonnell and Cuccinelli need to call for a special session of the Virginia General Assembly to amend the law on lab reports to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in Melendez-Diaz.

I am pleased that Sen. Cuccinelli has in deed called for the special session. See the Times-Dispatch, B-3, Saturday July 11, 2009. But the governor is dragging his feet on this issue:

“My public safety team,…are analyzing the ruling to determine what it might mean with respect to staffing and our forensic lab and the availability of more people to testify…”

Governor Kaine was cited by the Times-Dispatch writer as holding that it was premature to call the legislature into special session.

I stand by my analysis of the case: The Virginia law is now unconstitutional. Furthermore, there may be additional reasons for seeking an immediate change in the law: The Virginia Speedy Trial Act.

This act provides for trials within five months of preliminary hearing or indictment for those in jail. The penalty is dismissal of the charges. If the Commonwealth is required to ask for a delay in the trial to provide the lab analyst that does not constitute an exception to the five month rule. (If the defendant asks for a delay, that is an exception in most cases.) The alternative is a ruling in the midst of trial that might cause the trial to be aborted. That offends double jeopardy protections.

Under either the Speedy Trial Act or double jeopardy, this failure to amend this law places trials at risk and it is conceivable that drug dealers or violent criminals might be released or their charges dismissed.

People should write or email Governor Kaine and ask him to call that special session. One day should do it.

Let me add, Senator Cuccinelli’s opponent for Attorney General was quoted as saying the call for the special session was a publicity stunt that “would cost taxpayers money.” I suppose the costs of lab analysts shuttling all over the Commonwealth, not to mention the possibility of violent criminals being freed from jail, will cost the taxpayers money, too. I also urge Bob McDonnell to call for the special session.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

2 Responses to “GOVERNOR KAINE MUST CALL A SPECIAL SESSION TO CHANGE THE LAB REPORT LAW OR VIOLENT CRIMINALS AND DRUG DEALERS MAY GO FREE!”

  1. Tom White says:

    I spoke with Senator Cuccinelli on this issue at the Tomato Festival on Saturday. He says a one day session will cost $30,000 and will be all that is necessary. The bill is ready to go. Steve Shannon, the Democratic opponent for Attorney General calls it a publicity stunt, but Senator Cuccinelli refuses to play politics with this one. He is concerned that Kaine and Shannon's inaction is going to cause drug dealers and drunk drivers to walk. I share Cuccinelli's concern.

  2. Tom White says:

    I spoke with Senator Cuccinelli on this issue at the Tomato Festival on Saturday. He says a one day session will cost $30,000 and will be all that is necessary. The bill is ready to go. Steve Shannon, the Democratic opponent for Attorney General calls it a publicity stunt, but Senator Cuccinelli refuses to play politics with this one. He is concerned that Kaine and Shannon's inaction is going to cause drug dealers and drunk drivers to walk. I share Cuccinelli's concern.

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    Tom White Says:

    Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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