Seven years after a disgraced former state chemist pleaded guilty to mismanaging drug samples in the Boston lab where she once worked, the reverberations of the case are still being felt.
Hundreds of people have been released from prison since chemist Annie Dookhan’s wrongdoing was revealed. In 2017, more than 20,000 cases affected by Ms. Dookhan’s misconduct were found to be eligible for dismissal. And this week, the Suffolk County district attorney decided to overturn 108 more convictions, the latest development in recent years.
District Attorney Rachael Rollins filed a motion Monday night to quash 108 cases involving Ms Dookhan, but which district attorneys did not decide to dismiss in 2017, when a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling called for prosecutors to certify that they could produce evidence. in a new trial independent of the drug certificate or signed testimony of Ms Dookhan, according to a statement from Ms Rollins’ office on Tuesday.
“No accused touched by this ignominious chapter in Massachusetts law enforcement history should continue to bear the burden of Dookhan’s deception, his sad and desperate need for attention and the enormous amount of wrong she has inflicted on so much statement.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she added, “it doesn’t make sense to spend extra resources on litigating Dookhan cases, some of which are over 15 years old.”
Ms Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to 27 counts, including perjury, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to three to five years in prison plus two years of probation.
Prospectors said that during her nine years at a Boston State pharmaceutical lab, where she was responsible for processing drug samples seized from suspects, Ms. Dookhan mishandled samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she had never tested.
All 108 convictions affected by Ms Rollins’ petition had been designated on List 3, meaning district attorneys did not attempt to overturn the cases in 2017, despite Ms Dookhan’s involvement. According to the statement, the nine remaining List 3 cases had already been the subject of new first instance motions, dismissals or a negotiated plea agreement.
“In those cases, there were mandatory minimum sentences which made it infinitely easier to persuade and induce defendants to plead guilty,” Ms. Rollins said of the List 3 cases.
Ms Rollins’ office said it was the first in the state to take such broad action on List 3 cases, adding that “Dookhan’s putrid legacy requires further fumigation.”
His office is also seeking to overturn the guilty pleas of dozens of people who the court found ineligible for redress because they pleaded guilty before receiving drug analysis test results, and it was concluded that the Ms. Dookhan’s misconduct did not affect their decision to plead guilty. .
In addition to those cases, 7,886 cases in Suffolk County were quashed and dismissed in 2017 “with prejudice”, meaning prosecutors could no longer pursue the charges.
“This shameful chapter in our history will take dedication and perseverance,” Ms. Rollins said, “and I will and we must.