HASH(0x292cff8)

Prosecutors move to toss more than 21,000 tainted drug cases

Prosecutors move to toss more than 21,000 tainted drug cases

BOSTON — Prosecutors moved to throw out more than 21,000 drug convictions on Tuesday, five years after a chemist at the state drug lab was caught tampering with evidence and falsifying tests.

The state’s highest court had ordered district attorneys in seven counties to produce lists by Tuesday indicating how many of approximately 24,000 cases involving Annie Dookhan they would be unable or unwilling to prosecute if the defendants were granted new trials.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said Tuesday night that 21,587 cases had been recommended for dismissal. It said that would be the largest dismissal of criminal convictions in U.S. history.

The cases would be formally dismissed by court action, expected Thursday, the ACLU said.

“Today is a major victory for justice and fairness, and for thousands of people in the commonwealth who were unfairly convicted of drug offences,” Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said Tuesday in a statement.

Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence after being accused of falsifying her work as far back as 2004. She was sentenced to three years in prison and was paroled last year.

Many of the drug case defendants have already completed their sentences, though some probably remain in prison because of other charges not contaminated by the lab scandal. About 2,000 cases had been resolved before Tuesday.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, whose jurisdiction includes Boston, moved on Tuesday to dismiss all but 117 of the approximately 7,500 suspect cases there. The remaining cases, he said, involve people with a history of violent crime and probation violations.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe moved for dismissal of more than 1,000 cases. Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said his office is seeking to throw out more than 1,500.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said there are nine cases her office would prosecute again if a motion for a new trial were granted.

Also affected were thousands of cases in Essex, Plymouth and Norfolk counties.

While it’s unknown how many cases Dookhan falsified, her conduct cast a cloud over the many thousands she worked on. As a result, in January, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court said prosecutors would have to show that they could retry these cases without relying on evidence handled by Dookhan.

Prosecutors said Dookhan admitted testing only a fraction of a batch of samples, then listing them all as positive for illegal drugs. Her motive, they said, was to boost her productivity and burnish her reputation.

For those who have completed their sentences, wiping away their convictions will help them in other ways, such as employment, housing or immigration status, said Daniel Marx, an attorney who argued for the dismissals.

“Now, a majority of these wrongfully convicted individuals will have the opportunity to clear their records and move on with their lives,” he said.

Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, said some of the defendants lost their jobs or homes and some have been deported.

“In many respects the damage has been done,” Benedetti said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

___

Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc contributed to this report.

Bob Salsberg, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Study shows special needs hard to meet in B.C. public schools

It’s lunch time at the Dunn-Reker house, and four happy children bounce… Continue reading

Fernie Museum fundraiser a blast from the past

Retro themed evening raises over $10,000 for museum programming

Fernie Alpine Resort opens for preview weekend

Fernie Alpine Resort will be opening for a preview weekend, this Saturday and Sunday

Local boys raise money for sick children in unconventional way

Four local boys have found a way to use their passion for… Continue reading

Skid Steer stolen from Sparwood Transfer Station

Elk Valley RCMP are seeking the public’s assistance with a theft that… Continue reading

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Parastone weighs in on Slalom Drive

At a public hearing in Fernie Council on Tuesday night, Jacqueline Arling,… Continue reading

Ghostriders play hard against Nelson Leafs

Fernie Coach proud of team’s effort against top KIJHL contender

Cokato resident receives Order of Canada

Dr. Bryan Kolb has been instrumental in helping society understand what happens inside our heads

Mainroad discusses road conditions, standards

Last week, Mainroad, the Ministry of Transportation, the City of Fernie and… Continue reading

Dead rats on doorstep greets Summerland mayor

Two rodents have been delivered to Peter Waterman’s doorstep

Cougar confronts man in Clearwater

Clearwater resident Barry Joneson had a close encounter of the cougar kind

Panda picks Argonauts for the win

Giant panda at the Toronto Zoo picks Argos to win Grey Cup on Sunday

Most Read