BOSTON - The highest court in Massachusetts has rejected a proposal for the mass dismissal of more than 24,000 drug convictions because of misconduct by a former state drug lab chemist.
The Supreme Judicial Court did, however, order prosecutors to throw out cases clearly tainted by the scandal.
Since 2012, Massachusetts courts have been struggling to deal with the fallout from the misconduct of Annie Dookhan. She has served three years in prison for tampering with evidence and falsifying thousands of tests.
"Dookhan's misconduct at the Hinton lab has substantially burdened the due process rights of many thousands of defendants whose convictions rested on her tainted drug analysis and who, even if they have served their sentences, continue to suffer the collateral consequences arising from those convictions," said the ruling.
Many defendants are still waiting to challenge their convictions.
That’s phase one of SJC's order concerning the Dookhan cases. Phase two is to provide adequate notice to all defendants whose cases were not dismissed in phase one. The last phase would be having the public defender's office assigning attorneys to all defendants who wish to pursue vacating their plea or for a new trial.
If the number of defendants asking the public defender’s office for attorneys is so large that it’s impossible to assign them all counsel, the SJC will come up with a remedy, which could involve dismissing without prejudice the relevant drug convictions.
The court Wednesday declined to order the wholesale dismissal of cases sought by public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union. The court also rejected a recommendation from prosecutors that it take no new action.
Contributing reporting from the Associated Press
© 2019 Cox Media Group.