In her nine years working as a chemist at a Massachusetts Department of Public Health lab, Annie Dookhan tested drugs in some 34,000 cases. Earlier this month, Dookhan admitted to faking results, forging signatures, skipping proper lab procedures and tampering with evidence at the lab in many of the drug tests she ran.
Dookhan’s actions have created chaos in the State of Massachusetts’s judicial system; prosecutors and defense attorneys are now dealing with thousands of legal challenges to the cases in which Dookhan was involved.
Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margot Botsford heard arguments from both prosecutors and defense attorneys on how to deal with the legal mess created by the testing scandal. Defense attorneys want the high court to offer a remedy to deal with the thousands of convicted drug offenders serving prison sentences in which Dookhan performed tests.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts as well as lawyers for the state’s public defender agency argue the high court needs to get involved to protect the constitutional rights of those defendants whose convictions may have been tainted by accusations against Dookhan.
According to Randy Gioia, Deputy Chief Counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, “thousands of defendants were waiting for court hearings on their requests to be released from prison while legal challenges to their convictions make their way through the court system.”
Dookhan was arraigned last month and has pleaded not guilty to all but one of the twenty-seven charges on which she has been indicted. Her scandalous actions have not only raised questions about the reliability of evidence used in thousands of criminal cases, but have also resulted in the release of 286 offenders to Massachusetts communities.
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said prosecutors will be reviewing every case handled by Dookhan to “make sure justice is done.” However, he also stated he found it frustrating to be releasing convicted drug dealers because of Dookhan’s misconduct.
Special courts in Massachusetts have been hearing hundreds of cases of convicts and defendants claiming they were denied due process by the mishandling of their evidence by Dookhan.
Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone said that most drug cases where Dookhan was the primary chemist will be impossible to re-prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defense attorney William Sullivan said because of Dookhan’s misconduct, defendants have lost jobs, driver’s licenses, kids and marriages, while others have been deported. “This is a lab that was pretty much wholly and fully contaminated by Ms. Annie Dookhan…she had full access to everyone’s drugs.”
Full story can be found here.