• SJC considering throwing out 24k drug cases following chemist scandal


    BOSTON - The state's highest court deciding whether to dismiss some 24,000 drug cases handled by a disgraced chemist.

    Hinton Lab tech Annie Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to illegally tampering with drug tests from 2003 to 2012.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and Committee for Public Counsel Services petitioned the SJC to dismiss the cases due to a lack of resources that could cripple the agency.

    "There aren't enough resources in the system. There aren't enough lawyers. There isn't enough money. There isn't enough court time to handle 24,000 cases," said Daniel Marx, the plaintiffs’  attorney.

    "Do we just dismiss cases because it's hard? Do we just dismiss cases because it's going to take time?" said ADA with Norfolk County Susanne O’Neil.

    State district attorneys argued that CPCS can petition the legislature for help and that many so-called "Dookhan defendants" don't want a re-trial, for reasons including risk of deportation.

    That reasoning received pushback from some of the justices. 

    "In what world do they not want to make that right?" a justice said.

    In a statement, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley said, "The global remedy is no remedy at all…and the facts of each case are unique and defendants are best served when they are approached on their own merits."

    Also at issue are the letters sent out by the Commonwealth as part of their solution for notifying "Dookhan defendants" of evidence tampering. They were sent out just this September, three years after Dookahn's conviction, and the ACLU and CPCS called that inadequate.

    "There are thousands of people still who haven't even been sent a letter. So to say that the problem can be solved by sending another letter; it's really too late for that," said Matt Segal with ACLU Massachusetts.

    This is one of two lab scandals the state is dealing with, the other one in a western Massachusetts case where a chemist is accused of consuming the evidence in her cases.


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