Virginia Crime Labs Fall Behind in Wake of Melendez-Diaz

The Melendez-Diaz decision that 6 months ago changed the rules requiring witness testimony in criminal cases with forensic evidence, has resulted in a backlog in Virgina crime labs.

This outcome, as reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, is not unexpected in the wake of such a significant decision. As noted in the news article by the chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, the backlog of technicians and scientists required to testify in criminal courts has more than doubled across the state.

Which isn’t to say that any of this is unreasonable. It’s just a problem that has to be addressed. Last year, outgoing Virginia Governor Tim Kaine proposed a funding increase of nearly $800,000 in the next 2 years for the department to hire 2 additional toxicologists and cover increased

While it does seem increasingly rare for defense advocates and Constitutional civil libertarians to get a “win” in federal court, i.e. one that expands the rights of defendants, it shouldn’t be a shocking or controversial outcome.

Just because a procedure costs the state some additional funding, and affords criminal defendants an extra level of constitutional rights doesn’t mean it is a bad decision.  Being inconvenient for the prosecution is the point of many of the freedoms that we take for granted.

I hope this decision isn’t rolled back.

About David Matson