A Massachusetts crime drug lab scandal could cause the dismissal of as many as 23,000 drug convictions in the state. There has been no other in drug lab incident in the history that has impacted so many people on such a grand scale. This month, the five-year court debacle is finally coming to an end.
Investigators claim that former state chemist Annie Dookhan had been tampering with evidence and falsifying drug test results for almost a decade until she was found out and fired from her job at Boston lab in 2012. From then on an investigation ensued. With evidence suggesting that Dookhan's work was not considered reliable, she plead guilty to several charges in 2013, including a whopping 17 accounts of obstruction of justice and eight accounts of tampering with evidence. The tens of thousands of drug cases she handled involved an estimation of about 20,000 defendants. The cases were prosecuted in many districts throughout the state.
Revered professor at West Virginia and member of the National Commission of Forensic Science, Suzanne Bell, says the situation in its entirety is startling, to the say the least.
“It's absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like it,” Bell said. “It's unbelievable to me that it could have even happened. And then when you look at the scope of the number of cases that may be dismissed or vacated, there are no words for it.”
There has has been conflict surrounding the way the cases should be handled. Prosecutors are reportedly up in arms about the way this scandal has turned out. The reason why this case persisted for five years was because they were fighting to preserve the convictions, leaving matters up to the defendants to challenge and overturn the decisions. Meanwhile, civil rights and advocacy groups argued that all the cases should simply be dropped. They claimed that this was the only way to ensure justice for the innocent people who could be behind bars. But the high court resolved this fight in its own fashion, in an attempt to satisfy the needs of both groups.
It ruled that by April 18, seven district attorneys are required to have dictated who among tens of thousands of people they can potentially re-prosecute. They were ordered by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. They estimate that their answer will be “in the hundreds,” according to county district attorney Marian Ryan. The prosecutors are expected to be looking through the list up until the due date, which is their reason for providing an estimate and not an exact number.
Nonetheless, Dookhan's incident has shed light on several controversial issues. Civil rights advocates claim the case has “exposed the folly of aggressive enforcement of low-rung drug offenders, many of whom are addicts in need of treatment.”
If you have been charged with a drug-related offense, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney immediately. A drug charge does not guarantee a conviction. Call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.