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Criminal law subcommittee to meet Aug. 7

The criminal law subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee will meet Aug. 7 to discuss legislation that will be considered at the Aug. 19 special session of the General Assembly to address Melendez-Diaz v. Massachuetts.

That case, decided last month, holds that laboratory analysts generally must appear in court rather than submit their findings through a sworn report. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called the special session because of concern that analysts for the Department of Forensic Science would be spending most of their time in court rather than analyzing blood samples, fingerprints, firearms and other evidence.

State commonwealth’s attorneys have formed a committee to study the issue with Hampton prosecutor Linda Curtis as chairman.

The most likely products of the special session appear to be a “notice and demand” statute of the type that the Supreme Court cited approvingly in Melendez-Diaz and a measure to alter state speedy trial laws so that any delay in scheduling a court appearance by an analyst would extend the time in which a defendant must be tried.

A “notice and demand” statute requires prosecutors to notify defendants that they intend to present a sworn report by an analyst. The analyst’s appearance is waived unless the defendant demands that he appear at trial.

By Alan Cooper

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