The Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court issued a ruling this week that could lead to literally tens of thousands of convictions for drug offenses to be overturned.
Last Monday in Boston the court 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. The chemist was found to have tainted and falsified reports that led to convictions for about 14 years according to a report from local Boston station WCVB.
Watch that report HERE:
It is unfortunate that many people don’t even realize how corrupt these labs can be. Cases like this one in Massachusetts shine a bright light on what could be one of the most corrupt parts of the policing system we have today.
Dookhan pled guilty back in 2013 to 27 counts, which included perjury, obstruction of justice, and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to three to five years in prison along with two years of probation.
So far, over 300 have been released from prison as a result of these revelations. According to the New York Times, another 1,200 have filed for post conviction relief. It is estimated that this 14 years of fraud and corruption could lead to as many as 40,000 overturned convictions.
The justices stopped short in this ruling of imposing a so-called “global remedy.” That would have essentially overturned and vacated the convictions of all of the defendants that Dookham had any part in proving guilt.
Other states have had similar questions and instances of rampant fraud, but so far have not gone as far as the Boston court to bring justice to the situation. For example, last November in Delaware, Superior Court Judge Carpenter issued a ruling allowing defendants to challenge the chain of custody in drug cases, but he would not throw out all the evidence gathered by police because of possible tainting or theft. Delaware has seen two former employees convicted of various charges related to the fraud in their lab. The state has also closed down that lab and started a new agency under a different jurisdiction in an attempt to avoid further embarrassment.
The slightly more conservative Delaware court has already run into problems with its methodology. In the southern part of the state, Judge Graves issued a ruling in December that allowed the retesting of evidence that originally was presented as two kilograms of cocaine. The judge arrogantly declared that after the new lab came back with positive results, everyone could put all this to bed and move on. Hundreds of other cases were asking for similar retesting motions and Graves thought this would be the way to put all of them to rest in one move.
The move backfired when the lab came back and said the two packages weren’t cocaine at all but just powdered sugar. Despite this, Graves is still trying to resist a re-look at other cases by taking a “they were probably guilty anyway” attitude.
Perhaps the Massachusetts ruling could change his obstinate view on all of this.
Featured image via screen capture from YouTube