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Posted at 1:15 PM ET, 02/15/2011

Not guilty ruling for Supreme Court case namesake

By Tom Jackman
Tom Jackman

The Massachusetts man whose cocaine trafficking case led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling and forced the Virginia General Assembly to hold a special session to amend state law, has been found not guilty by a jury near Boston.

Luis Melendez-Diaz was convicted of dealing cocaine in 2004 after police apparently found some of the drug in a car in which he was riding. But the proof that the white powder actually was cocaine came into court only through lab reports.

The defense demanded the right to cross-examine the people who actually tested the powder and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that defendants should have that right in the now-famous 2009 ruling of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

A month after the ruling, in Virginia, defense attorneys subpoenaed state drug lab technicians 925 times. There had been 43 subpoenas in the same month in 2008.

In August 2009, the Virginia General Assembly reconvened, amending the law to provide new procedures for calling technicians into court and for challenging the process of testing for drunk drivers.

In Massachusetts, prosecutors last week called the technicians who had tested the cocaine in the Melendez-Diaz case in 2004. But a Suffolk Superior Court jury still acquitted him, according to the Boston Globe.

By Tom Jackman  | February 15, 2011; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Around the Nation, From the Courthouse, Tom Jackman, Updates  
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