A top aide to Gov. Tim Kaine says the special General Assembly session called by the governor is expected to focus solely on the issue of proving scientific tests in court, not on any other legislation that lawmakers might want to advance.
Mark Rubin, counselor to the governor, told a Virginia Bar Association conference today that the leadership of the Assembly agreed that addressing the recent Melendez-Diaz decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is the only item on the legislative agenda in the session scheduled for August 19.
Rubin expects two statutory changes to be considered. One would require criminal defense lawyers to provide early notice to prosecutors when they will demand live witnesses at trial to validate scientific tests, such as a certificate of blood alcohol analysis. Another measure would toll the running of the speedy trial statute when such a witness is demanded.
With a wave of defense lawyers now asking for experts to come to trial in the wake of the new decision, Rubin said state agencies are experiencing a significant backlog of work. “Unfortunately for us, there are not enough experts to go around,” he said.
Rubin appeared to take issue with a recent ruling by Fairfax County Judge Jane Marum Roush, who cited the Melendez-Diaz opinion in throwing out a DUI case. “Some judges may be taking a little broader interpretation of the case than may be warranted,” Rubin said.
By Peter Vieth