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21,587 Drug Convictions Tainted by Falsified Evidence

All humans lie, occasionally, to themselves and to others. Poets, priests, nuns, politicians, the police, judges, presidents, scientists, everyone, even honest Abe Lincoln lied. 
Then there are shocking and disgusting situations when people criminally falsify evidence and tell lies to support their preexisting views. 

Recently, it was learned that thousands accused of using drugs were convicted on false evidence. When the police falsify evidence, you pretty much know you’re screwed … 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.”


More detail:

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.”


How could anyone be so cruel as to falsify evidence that destroys or takes lives? The story was that Dookhan was just selfishly wanting to be seen as productive to her employer, but that’s not the heart of it. There is a common attitude, a prejudice, that anyone accused of something obviously did it, or they wouldn’t be accused. Presumption of innocence failure. No evidence? Frame the bastard. Welcome to the real world. People totally suck. 

Love them anyway.  (Also, implement appropriate checks and balances.)


About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


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