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Path eased a bit for the wrongly convicted


(Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 22, 2013, Link)


Legislators could vote on a transportation deal reached by House and Senate negotiators.

Concussion policy bill shunted aside


A bill that would have expanded the existing public school concussion policy to sports organizations that use school property was defeated by a floor motion Thursday in the House of Delegates.

Delegates voted to recommit Senate Bill 1252 to the Courts of Justice Committee for further review, effectively ending its chances of passage this year. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ralph S. Northam, D-Norfolk, would have required nonscholastic sports programs that use public school property to establish protocols to identify and treat concussions in their participants.

The bill sought to expand on a recently enacted law that now requires schools to have policies and procedures for concussions in student athletes.

Proponents, including Northam, a pediatric neurologist, have maintained that the public needs to be better informed on how to identify and treat concussions when they occur, and mitigate the long-term risk of head injuries.

But opponents said the legislation, while well-intentioned, would expose sports organizations to greater civil liability.

Path eased a bit for the wrongly convicted

Virginia legislators have approved a change in state law aimed at making it a little easier for wrongly convicted inmates to win exoneration. The Senate voted 37-2 Thursday to pass the revision, which the House of Delegates approved earlier.

Under the state’s current law governing so-called “writs of actual innocence,” an inmate can be exonerated based on new evidence upon a finding that no rational judge or jury could have found sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt supporting a conviction. Critics have said the standard is so strict that it’s nearly impossible to meet.

House Bill 1432, sponsored by Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, and sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk, changes the word “could” to the less-stringent “would.” It also authorizes the attorney general to provide the Virginia Supreme Court with evidence of innocence, not just guilt, which is all the current law allows.

“This (bill) … ensures that justice will prevail, especially when the law has failed and the innocent are wrongly convicted for crimes they did not commit,” said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Senate votes that parents have rights

Legislation declaring that parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children has won final General Assembly approval.

Without debate, the Senate voted 29-11 Thursday to accept a House amendment to Senate Bill 908 sponsored by Sen. Bryce E. Reeves, R-Spotsylvania. Decades of court rulings have made parental rights part of common law. However, proponents said those rights would be protected by inclusion in the state code.

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