A single state Supreme Court judge on Friday overturned nearly 110 drug convictions in Suffolk County in which disgraced former state chemist Annie Dookhan tested evidence, as the scandal fallout of 2012 at the state drug lab continue to grow.
The cases were dismissed at the behest of Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, who said in March she was launching the Hinton Lab initiative, an effort to drop charges in tens of thousands of criminal cases for which evidence was processed to former William A. Hinton. Jamaican Plain State Laboratory Institute.
Rollins’ office filed the motion to overturn the convictions, mostly of people of color, in November. She said the ruling ensures Massachusetts taxpayers won’t be forced to pay the cost of each case individually.
“Today’s decision is, morally and legally, the correct one,” Rollins said in a statement. “No belief that Annie Dookhan played a role in securing can be maintained now that we understand the full extent and enormity of her wrongdoing and the blatant mismanagement of the former William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute . “
Authorities have determined that Dookhan was involved in more than 40,000 cases at Hinton’s lab from 2003 to 2012. She admitted to filing false test results and mixing drug samples, then lying under oath about her qualifications. professional. She said she lied only to improve her performance at work.
Dookhan pleaded guilty in November 2013 to obstructing justice, tampering with evidence and perjury. She was sentenced to three years in prison and was released in April 2016.
Hinton was run by the state public health department before state police took over drug testing in 2012. The lab no longer plays a role in forensic testing for investigations on drugs.
The cases released on Friday were the ones state district attorneys did not decide to dismiss after a 2017 state Supreme Court of Justice ruling that required prosecutors to show they could produce evidence in a new trial, regardless of Dookhan’s certification or testimony, that the substance in a given case was in fact an illegal drug.
Rollins said more than 70% of defendants whose convictions were overturned on Friday were black, Indigenous or people of color. She said “we still have a long way to go” to achieve justice and pledged to keep working “to right the enormous wrong that has been and continues to be inflicted”.
“The Hinton lab has been so grossly mismanaged that we cannot trust any of the testing at the site, tainting every drug conviction the lab has been involved in,” she said.
Thousands of drug convictions have been overturned due to the scandal involving Dookhan and another former state chemist, SonjaFarak, and there may be more to come.
Farak was arrested in 2013 and sentenced the following year for stealing drug evidence from the Amherst State Lab, where she went to work after leaving the Hinton Lab in 2004.
She admitted to falsifying drug samples obtained during criminal investigations by substituting narcotics with other substances to fuel her drug use. Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing drug evidence, was sentenced to prison and was released.
But it’s not just the chemists who have been caught in the scandal. Three former prosecutors could be struck off the bar after being charged with misconduct in the Farak case.
The Globe reported in January that nearly 38,000 cases were dismissed statewide in the scandal, including 16,393 cases where Farak tested the drugs and 21,405 where the chemist was Dookhan.
Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @jeremycfox.