Brickbat: Testing Our Patience


Lab tech
Jovanmandic /

A Massachusetts judge has dismissed almost 12,000 convictions in cases handled by Sonja Farak, a technician in a state drug crime lab. Farak pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and drug possession after being arrested for stealing samples from the lab.

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  1. She’s a hero for setting almost 12,000 political prisoners free! We need more like her! Seriously!

    1. Well, on 2nd thought, it would have been better had she done her supposedly dirty deeds in one big quick fell swoop, then turned herself in quickly, so that not so many people would have lingered in the Maw of the Mighty State quite so long, for the political crimes of believing that their bodies belong to them, not the State, and acting upon their political beliefs.

      But how could she have done that for 12,000 people, without risk of messing over at least a few people on the earliest edge of her supposed misdeeds? Compared to, had she not done what she did? Was she also in the business of, at the behest of the State, or in her perceived interests of the State, faking lab-test results to say that non-drugs were drugs? That is not quite clear to me…

      1. The article didn’t have the salient piece of information, and I haven’t done any further digging. But on the face of it the argument of the ACLU and CPCS seems odd. The tech is guilty of diverting drugs that were being tested for personal consumption. She was also apparently using the lab to synthesize her own drugs.

        From this the organizations get :

        “For nearly nine years, Farak used drugs that she stole from or manufactured in the Amherst Lab, causing thousands of people to be wrongfully convicted of drug crimes based on unreliable evidence,”

        So I’ll assume that she would take the bag of pills home after testing, thereby making it impossible to repeat her results. I’m not sure how they get from “the evidence was stolen” to the implication that innocent people were framed. These convictions would appear to be wrongful in the sense that the tech stole the evidence.

        But if I were going to steal drugs and I was a drug lab tech, I’d test them before I took them, so I could just steal the good stuff.

        There might be a ton of other evidence that she faked results to get convictions, but from the superficial write-up this is a little overblown. It isn’t in the same category as other cases where crime labs have actively framed someone, or the much larger phenomenon of a lack of independence that skews results and testimony. This is “we can’t rely on her certification because she’s a thief and an addict.”

        1. Law enforcement routinely lies and fakes evidence. After all, they don’t make accusations against innocent people.

          Stealing though? That’s one of the few things that can get them fired. Because it’s a crime not against those they supposedly protect and serve, but against the department they actually protect and serve.

        2. This is why you have to do your due diligence. This is a report on the ensuing law suit over her 2014 conviction wherein these cases were already dropped by the various prosecutors involved, there’s a whole series of articles on the case and they don’t recap every single detail of the whole story. If this is the first you’ve heard of this case, you haven’t been paying attention to the whole series of similar scandals all over the place, including Texas, New York and the FBI’s own lab going back 20 years or so.

          1. But is there an allegation that she falsified reports?

            Or is the allegation that she tampered with evidence (by eating it) after performing the tests she was supposed to do?

            They are both violations of the preservation of evidence and could invalidate a conviction, but one is much more serious than the other as it indicates that innocent people were wrongfully convicted, rather than violations of due process in an after-the-fact manner.

            1. The allegation is that any lab work done by a junkie who steals her samples is inherantly untrustworthy.

              1. I allege that any work done by Government Almighty power addicts is inherently untrustworthy, since they are, after all, power addicts. Where can I go, what can I say, so that anyone will give a friggin’ DAMN about what I think?!?!?

                (And how can we suggest, with sensitivity and compassion, yet with effective firmness, that they all need power-pig therapy?!?!?)

        3. This is an old sorry. She was also using the drugs at work.

  2. In April 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its final order to dismiss nearly 22,000 drug cases tainted by former state chemist Annie Dookhan.

    What are the odds of there being two bad apples in the barrel?

    1. Different barrels. Same state.

      However, it makes one wonder… Is Massachusetts particularly bad at supervising lab techs, or are they particularly honest about ratting them out when they find them? Dookan was a Stephen Hayne style lab tech, performing superhuman numbers of tests without ever appearing to actually do any work.

      This calls for a different remedy- if forensics testing was done independently by private labs instead of by the state and the results were equally available to the defense team, incentives to prevent this sort of thing would be altered. Right now, nobody in the chain of command has any interest in looking in to a lab that provides the “correct” results that earn convictions in court.

      1. I look at it this way: If some legislator introduced a bill that the crime labs be operated by the public defenders office, is there any doubt there would be a howl of laughter at the absurdity of having a “biased” source of analysis? But the public defenders office is a government office, why would you not trust the government?

        1. excellent framing of the argument. Too bad nobody is going to bother to listen to it.

          Also, it points toward another ugly piece of the justice system that nobody wants to examine: the public defenders. Supposedly completely independent and totally for the defense…. yet paid by the same people who are trying to put people in jail. Where are the incentives? Since we spend so much less on public defenders than we do on prosecution, what does that say about the quality of their work? What about the case load? Does that encourage plea bargaining innocent people into wrongful convictions?

          Yeah… nobody is really interested in looking under any of these rocks.

          1. Are not the judges paid by the same people who are trying to put people in jail?

            Doesn’t it amaze you how some people jerk off to “separation of powers” as if it was somehow the very essence of brilliance and supercalifragilistic wonderfulness?

  3. She was simply correcting anomalies so that the data better matched computer models.

    1. She was rubber stamping evidence for the cops, just as judges rubber stamp warrants. Who does she think she is? A judge?

    2. So she’s a climate scientist?

  4. Did I miss the part where the true victims get compensated for their time served?
    Is 18 months appropriate for 12,000 lives destroyed?
    12,000 wrongful convictions / 547 days = 1 day for each 22 persons abused. Barely an hour per crime.

    Here’s a thought; name a bill after her that does away with drug laws.

    1. Unless…. she did it on purpose?

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