ACLU: More than 24,000 cases affected by Massachusetts drug lab sandal
BOSTON >> More than 24,000 drug cases were likely affected by a Massachusetts drug evidence scandal more than four years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday.
The civil rights group said the revised estimate, down from more than 40,000 cases, was based on information provided by prosecutors in the ongoing Supreme Judicial Court case seeking to resolve fallout from the scandal.
The latest estimate represents about one-sixth of all drug convictions and adverse judgments in Massachusetts from 2003 to 2012.
The ACLU said the revised figure is the most accurate accounting to date of the cases likely adversely affected by the actions of Annie Dookhan. The former state chemist was sentenced to prison in 2013 for falsifying drug tests in criminal cases at the Hinton State Lab in Boston. She was paroled earlier this year.
Dookhan's misconduct was caught in late 2011. But the majority of defendants in cases affected by her actions still haven't been officially notified or granted legal representation to challenge their convictions, the ACLU said.
"It has taken five years and a lawsuit just to get a list of Dookhan's cases," Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement. "Yet their tainted convictions have brought years of jail time, as well as harsh collateral consequences, including deportation from the United States and difficulty finding employment or housing."
The notification process is being negotiated by the ACLU, prosecutors and the state public defender's office.
A spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said his office provided the court a list that included the names, docket numbers and dispositions for affected Dookhan cases in its jurisdiction over a year ago. District attorneys in other jurisdictions affected by the Dookhan case, including Suffolk, Norfolk, Bristol, Essex, Middlesex and Plymouth counties, didn't immediately return requests for comment.
Massachusetts also is dealing with the case of former chemist Sonja Farak. State investigators say Farak was high almost every day over the eight years she went to work at a drug lab in Amherst. They say she has put into question thousands of criminal cases she worked on between 2005 and 2013.
Farak pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and related charges in 2014. She has since completed an 18-month prison sentence and remains on probation.
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