Massachusetts

Massachusetts Prepares to Vacate Nearly 24,000 Tainted Drug Convictions

Prosecutors are expected to drop nearly all of the convictions based on the work of a drug lab chemist who falsified evidence in favor of police.

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Annie Dookhan // BIZ WENN Photos/Newscom

Massachusetts prosecutors will move in mid-April to vacate nearly all of the roughly 24,000 drug convictions tainted by a single corrupt forensic lab chemist, The Boston Globe reported Saturday, marking the denouement of one of the largest drug lab scandals in U.S. history.

A Massachusetts prosecutor told the state's Supreme Judicial Court last week that D.A.'s would seek to keep fewer than 1,000 of the 24,000 convictions tainted by drug lab chemist Annie Dookahn, who pled guilty in 2012 to falsifying test results in favor of law enforcement and tampering with evidence over a nine-year period starting in 2003.

"Without putting numbers on it, it's in the ballpark that the court was looking for," Robert J. Bender, a Middlesex County assistant district attorney, said during a March 16 hearing, according to Globe. "Hundreds of cases, not thousands of cases."

Since Dookhan was convicted, the Massachusetts criminal justice system has been reeling under the number of so-called "Dookhan defendants" and how to ensure justice for all of them. Dookhan managed to taint an estimated one in six drug cases in Massachusetts between 2003 and 2012.

As I reported in January, the court declined to vacate the cases en masse, but ordered prosecutors to review and clear as many of the cases as they could:

The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was pressing the state's high court to vacate the convictions en masse, arguing it would take 48 years to assign public defenders to each of the 24,483 defendants potentially harmed by the Dookhan's dirty work.

The court declined to take such sweeping action, instead ordering state prosecutors to dismiss all cases within 90 days it would not or could not reprosecute if given a new trial. In addition, it ordered clear notifications to be sent to remaining defendants informing them of their right to challenge their convictions.

In a statement, Matt Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts said Wednesday's ruling "is a major victory for justice, fairness, and tens of thousands of people in the Commonwealth who were wrongfully convicted of drug offenses."

"The court has called on prosecutors to dismiss the drug charges against most of the Dookhan defendants and to provide meaningful notice to the remaining defendants, all by fixed deadlines," Segal said. "It is now time for the DAs to step up and finally allow Massachusetts to turn the page on the worst drug lab scandal in our nation's history, especially because the Amherst drug lab scandal involving chemist Sonja Farak has called into question thousands more drug convictions."

The list of cases is due from county prosecutors on April 18.

Dookhan's case is among the largest, but far from the only forensics scandal that potentially ruined the lives of thousands of criminal defendants. Just last month in Florida, the Orange County State Attorney's Office sent letters to 2,600 area defense attorneys, notifying them that their clients' cases may have been compromised by the work of a fingerprint expert.

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19 responses to “Massachusetts Prepares to Vacate Nearly 24,000 Tainted Drug Convictions

  1. testing
    blah

  2. I wish the article would have given the “why” this was done. Was it to secure future assignments? Did they get paid more if the tests were positive? Were they working in conjunction with police/ prosecutor? What was the incentive for providing false positives?

    1. Pretty sure she was just an idiot and didn’t care about quality or the people’s lives she ruined and no one ever though or cared…hey she is doing 5 times more than anyone else and has high positive rates……

      Did all her bosses go to jail too?…of course not right?

  3. Given how many people’s lives she ruined…should she ever see the outside again?

    Dead serious…at a certain point, the damage you intentionally did to numerous others should disqualify you from the option of being free again. She didn’t seem to mind punishing others for no reason.

    1. Oh i am all for life in prison or death penalty for this bitch. She is scum and so are her supervisors. She is not the only one culpable here. but we all know she will be the only one to pay and back to the status que.

    2. Oh i am all for life in prison or death penalty for this bitch. She is scum and so are her supervisors. She is not the only one culpable here. but we all know she will be the only one to pay and back to the status que.

    3. Oh i am all for life in prison or death penalty for this bitch. She is scum and so are her supervisors. She is not the only one culpable here. but we all know she will be the only one to pay and back to the status que.

      1. ha ha you misspelled queue like three times

  4. Dookhan should be facing 24 thousand counts of perjury, false arrest, violations of civil rights under color of authority, kidnapping, and false imprisonment, and charged as an accessory in any crime committed against her victims by other inmates while they were locked up.

    -jcr

  5. I hope that every single one of those 24,000 people sues the pants off of the state of Taxachussettes. And I hope they win big. Let’s see what it takes to put the entire state out of business.

    1. I’d say you’re up for a mandatory drug screen after that little rant, clearly you’re hallucinating

      1. Bring it. Straight Edge here. I just love freedom.

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  7. What was the incentive for providing false positives? She is scum and so are her supervisors.

    1. The reality is that you provide evidence for a conviction, or you lose your contract to a lab that will. Cops and prosecutors really don’t give a shit about truth or accuracy, they want to put scum in jail, by any means necessary.

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