Twenty new scientists would be hired for Virginia’s beleaguered forensic lab under a budget proposal announced Tuesday by Gov. Mark R. Warner. The $2.6 million plan also would help to expand the regional crime lab in Norfolk, reports the Virginian-Pilot. Warner made his proposal as state lawmakers are preparing to consider other changes that would provide even more money – along with more scrutiny – of Virginia's crime lab, which has been criticized for mishandling evidence in a high-profile murder case.
The State Crime Commission will hear a recommendation today to establish an advisory board of scientists that would review testing procedures and establish an audit process to be used when errors occur. If that measure is approved by the legislature, national forensics leaders say Virginia would become only the second state crime lab in the country, along with New York's, to have a scientific review panel. The Virginia Division of Forensic Science was the first state crime lab to provide DNA testing in 1989 and is considered a national leader in the field.