Massachusetts may soon hold the record for the most massive single dismissal of wrongful convictions in United States history, as state prosecutors announced a breathtaking 21,587 criminal drug convictions will be thrown out.
Tens of thousands had been arrested based on testimony and evidence provided by Annie Dookhan — a former state chemist arrested in 2013 for obstruction of justice, evidence tampering, and perjury, pertaining to misconduct over the course of her nine-year tenure at a state crime lab in Boston.
Investigators remain uncertain as to Dookhan’s motivation, though colleagues believed her apparent obsession with overachieving may have meant cutting corners or even faking results. As the state’s most prolific analyst, the chemist — who pled guilty in a plea deal and served three years in prison — garnered praise from supervisors, but doubts from coworkers.
“Today is a major victory for justice and fairness, and for thousands of people in the Commonwealth who were unfairly convicted of drug offenses,” declared Matthew Segal, who assisted litigating for the Massachusetts ACLU. “Unfortunately, the victims of this crisis waited far too long for justice. It shouldn’t have taken years of litigation by the ACLU, public defenders, and pro bono lawyers to address this stain on the Commonwealth’s justice system.”
UPI reports, “The seven district attorney offices with cases affected by Dookhan’s crimes brought their lists to the state Supreme Judicial Court clerk’s office in Boston on Tuesday. The court is expected to issue an order of dismissal this week.”
Rather than cope with such a superfluous backlog, the Supreme Judicial Court, highest in the state, ruled Dookhan’s callous ineptitude, “government misconduct that has cast a shadow over the entire criminal justice system,” according to the Washington Post.
In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants noted the ‘ongoing impact’ of the false convictions on the individuals’ lives — including added burdens in seeking jobs, housing, or financial aid.
District attorneys in the eight counties affected by Dookhan’s egregious mishandling received orders from the highest court in January to review pertinent reports within 90 days, in order to determine which could be feasibly retried and those which should be dropped.
Prosecutors delivered those lists to the court Tuesday.
According to UPI, the “counties involved are Bristol, Essex, Cape and Islands, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said in a statement that 117 of 15,570 cases will be pursued and the rest dropped; Bristol Count District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said that 112 of more than 1,500 cases involving Dookhan’s analysis would go forward; Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said his office would prosecute one case and drop 1,067.”
In a statement, O’Keefe explained, “We are dealing with drug defendants, the overwhelming majority of whom pleaded guilty, went through an exhaustive plea colloquy with a judge and testified under oath that they were ‘pleading guilty because they were guilty and for no other reason.”
Convictions must be tossed, he added, “because we believe that the integrity of our system of justice is more important than their convictions.”
Astonishingly, Dookhan lied about her chemistry degree, forged supervisors’ initials, and admitted to performing the most perfunctory of visual tests. Investigators noted her colleagues expressed doubts about the workaholic’s performance — but those concerns were never addressed by supervisors.
“The dismissal of thousands of tainted drug lab cases rightly puts justice over results,” asserted Massachusetts Bar Association Chief Legal Counsel Martin Healey. “It is a necessary and long-overdue outcome, given our criminal justice system’s responsibility to ensure a level playing field for all, regardless of the offense.”
Attorney Daniel Marx, who represented some of those wrongfully convicted, explained a number of the ‘Dookhan defendants’ had served time in prison and experienced unnecessarily harsh repercussions in daily living thanks to the chemist’s quest to achieve.
“Now,” Marx said, “a majority of these wrongfully convicted individuals will have the opportunity to clear their records and move on with their lives.”
Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen. This article first appeared here at TheFreeThoughtProject.com
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Excellent news, but she deserves a hell of a lot more than 3yrs for potentially ruining so many reputations. I hope every one of them sues her.
And this was in only 1 little State – imagine how many more ” Dookhan’s ” are out there.
Bingo. Here in Texas we have the same where innocent men and women have been convicted on false evidence and years later the convictions overturned. Lets take a survey Garry. Dear readers if you have read similar cases in the state you live please note your state.
Worked with real Texans on pipelines in Alaska – good guys – but I actually took a job outta Dallas a few years back – All the idiot management team was from NY – Texas is losing its cowboys and gals – too bad. Anyways – after AK became a police state – I moved out of the country – Amarillo in my rear view mirror and kept going till I hit Crimea – then stopped.
Spot on. Not only are people losing their identity but places are losing theirs as well. Thanks Garry for sharing.
She could work at the FBI crime lab
They will play hell getting there record clean. It won.t happen.
I said it before, I think it was mostly her fault and I don’t think she believed anything would happen to her for all her “favors” if she was found out, because it went on for so long. She had D.A.’s calling her from court all day, checking with her if samples were still there and “accurate” and she would always assure them. But I don’t think she was alone in it, seeing another lab worker was caught as well, it just seems all too cut and dry. I think the light of day and a new administration had something to do with it being discovered, but I think she and her colleague took the fall for more than one D.A.’s corruption. I grew up in a city here on the north shore with a classmate who became a D.A. and he ran with a crew of “jocks” when I was there and believe me, they weren’t angels. The city’s “finest” and top officials still maintain the attitude, habits and behavior that I witnessed there as I grew up, let’s just say IMO, it was aggressive …