Over 21,000 Drug Convictions To Be Vacated By Massachusetts Supreme Court
On April 19, 2017, The Innocence Project reports:
“This morning, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced that it will vacate 21,587 drug conviction cases. This is the largest dismissal of wrongful convictions in U.S. history. The decision was made in response to a massive drug-testing scandal involving Annie Dookhan—a former chemist for the Hinton State laboratory in Massachusetts—who, in 2013, was convicted of tampering with and fabricating drug tests in criminal cases.
During her more than eight-year tenure at the lab, Dookhan handled approximately 40,000 cases. She admitted to tampering with at least two dozen cases and also fabricating test results, prompting widespread concern amongst many in the defense community that any of the tens of thousands of drug tests used as evidence in approximately 20,000 conviction cases were potentially inaccurate or falsified.”
The Massachusetts judiciary system does not have capacity to hear and rule on appeals to each individual case that Dookhan handled. The Massachusetts Supreme Court therefore, ordered prosecutors to dismiss the cases in bulk.
According to Aljazeera, an investigation in 2013 found that Dookhan falsified test results as far back as 2004. Prosecutors said Dookhan admitted “dry labbing,” or testing only a fraction of a batch of samples, then listing them all as positive for illegal drugs. Dookhan was sentenced to three years in prison and was paroled last year.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Some of those convicted due to Dookhan’s drug-testing scandal already served their sentences. Others lost their jobs, their homes, and some were deported.
About 18,000 more cases are tainted. Those are cases that were handled by former drug lab chemist in Amherst, MA, Sonja Farak. In 2014, Farak was convicted of stealing and using drugs from the state laboratory where she worked for years.