Recently, it was learned that thousands accused of using drugs were convicted on false evidence. When the police (or laboratories, expert witnesses, etc.) falsify evidence, you pretty much know you’re done for … but not always.
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 offenses,” 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.
… 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. …
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. …
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.”
In August, police interviewed Dookhan at her home in Franklin, where she admitted to altering and faking test results in order to cover up her frequent “dry labbing,” or visually identifying samples without actually testing them. She even went as far as to add cocaine to samples in which no cocaine was present. She said she had been dry-labbing for as long as three years. At one point, she broke down, saying, “I messed up, I messed up bad. I don’t want the lab to get in trouble.”
No evidence? Frame them. Welcome to the real world, where some people totally suck.
Be thankful to those who implement appropriate checks and balances. All humans lie occasionally, to themselves and to others. Poets, priests, nuns, politicians, the police, judges, presidents, scientists, everyone, even honest Abe Lincoln lied.
Nevertheless, do try to be as honest as possible all of the time. Extremely honest people will sometimes stop themselves after they say something that is not true and then say, “No, that was a lie. I did eat the cookies.”
Try it if you ever catch yourself lying. It builds character. Eventually you’ll catch yourself before you even start to speak. It is much better, essential even, to say nothing at all if you can’t speak the truth, for example, because it would harm someone else. Also, if you don’t know, it’s okay to say that. Don’t make stuff up.
In the above case, it would not be surprising if many of those tests would have shown real drugs if samples were run correctly, but they did the right thing in throwing out all the cases. Anyone who is a real drug addict is just going to do it again and they’ll get caught again.