A Supreme Judicial Court ruling is expected to free tens of thousands from prison. Those who are expected to be impacted by decision are those whose drug samples were “mishandled” in a way that produced thousands of “forged” results, leading to incarceration.
The justices ruled unanimously that in cases where defendants’ convictions were based on evidence tainted by the chemist, Annie Dookhan, new trials can be sought without additional charges or more severe sentences being slapped on them as a deterrent.
Local WCVB news in Boston explained that Dookhan had tampered with test results, along with repeatedly forging documents and wantonly testifing falsely in criminal cases. All of this went on for more than 14 years, while she worked for the state crime lab.
Watch the video below from local WCVB in Boston…
Matthew Segal, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts praised the decision, saying that “it clears a path for people to challenge — when I say people, I say thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people — to challenge their convictions without fear that prosecutors will respond by seeking to revive harsher charges or harsher sentences that were relinquished in a plea bargain.”
Dookhan ended up pleading guilty to 27 counts, which included perjury, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to three to five years in prison. She also received an additional two years of probation. But by that time, she had already ruined tens of thousands of lives.
Prosecutors argued successfully that during her nine years working at a drug lab in Boston, Dookhan failed to properly test samples but declared them positive anyway. She also mixed up samples and forged signatures as well as repeatedly lying about her credentials.
So far, over 300 have been released from prison as a result of these revelations.
The New York Times reports that
those whose convictions relied on Dookhan’s tainted evidence are being referred to by the catchall term “Dookhan defendants.”
“By the end of 2014, according to court papers, fewer than 1,200 defendants had filed for post-conviction relief,” the Times reports, “Which Mr. Segal attributed to fear by many that they could actually face previously dropped charges or additional prison time if their cases were overturned.”
“This dynamic was causing the entire effort to get justice, due process, causing that effort to come to a screeching halt,” Mr. Segal added. “People were not filing new motions. People were afraid.”
State and national A.C.L.U. organizations worked in conjunction last year, along with the law firm Foley Hoag, to file a petition on behalf of three defendants. Each had pleaded guilty based on their attorneys’ recommendation. Why? Because they believed that their clients had no chance of winning due to Dookhan’s tainted evidence. Thus, they were “seeking protection for defendants and a mechanism to ensure faster reviews of cases.” But it was all in response to forged evidence.
In 2013 the number of cases effected by Dookhan’s misconduct was pinpointed as 40,000 cases.
The justices stopped short in this ruling of imposing a so-called “global remedy.” That would have vacated the convictions of all of the effected defendants.
This news is of course huge, but for some reason the mainstream media doesn’t want to talk about the fact that tens of thousands of convictions were won by the state based on forged drug tests. These are just the ones we know about now. How many more cases just like these are there all across the United States?
(Article by Jackson Marciana)