Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MASSACHUSETTS DRUG CASES ARE BEING REVIEWED DUE TO POLICE LAB’S CHEMIST MISHANDLEING EVIDENCE

Hello and happy Labor Day.

Speaking of which, Boston’s law enforcement is about to have some extra labor it is going to have to shoulder. Particularly prosecutors.

I was on CBS Thursday night discussing this one in case you happenned to tune into the 11:00 pm news. It is a story which is likely to bring new problems to the prosecution of drug crimes in the Commonwealth.

In order to prove a case of possession or distribution of illegal drugs, the prosecution must prove that the material in question is indeed the illegal substance it says it is. Further, in many cases, the weight of the substance is also an ellement of the crime. In order to prove these elements, the prosecution relies upon chemists who test and weigh the substances, provide a written report and then testify at trial.

Usually, the one witness the prosecution can call at trial and not have to worry about too much cross-examination is the chemist.

Until now, that is.

Until recently, one such chemist was Annie Dookhan (hereinafter, “Ex-Chemist”). While the Commonwealth has yet to confirm it, Ex-Chemist is said to have been suspended from the lab because of allegations that she may have falsified evidence by, among other things, not following the proper protocol. She has since resigned.

As a result, Governor Deval Patrick has shut down the state drug lab in Jamaica Plain, where she worked so that the problem can be investigated.

State Police Superintendent Col. Timothy Alben claims that the issues are isolated to one person [believed to be Ex-Chemist] who has worked at the lab since 2003. But, it likely involves thousands of local police cases.

“We are all furious about this,” he told reporters at an afternoon news conference.
There have been suspicions about such an issue for some time now. In fact, many defense attorneys believe that that District Attorneys may have been misrepresenting how many cases are affected when they contended that the number was small and the evidence was re-tested.

Of course, law enforcement claims that Ex-Chemist acted alone, had not been stealing drugs and do not believe that she was trying to influence outcomes of cases. Further, they believe that the problem was very limited.

Since they claim that she was not trying to influence cases, you may wonder why Ex-Chemist would be doing what she is accused of doing. The prosecutors have an answer for that. They claim that she trying to be the smartest chemist in the lab.

Of course, if that was indeed the reason, one wonders what other bizarre types of motivations are being acted out at the lab on a daily basis.

By the way, law enforcement also claims that Ex-Chemist only did her misdeeds one day only.

I guess, like “temporary insanity”, Ex-Chemist simply suffered a one-day temporary “ego fit”.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Mis-Handled Evidence

Does anyone other than me remember a gent named “Detective Derek Johnson” (hereinafter, “Admitted Thief”)? He was the detective who within the past year, was found to be stealing money connected to various cases from police custody. In fact, it turned out that he had unfettered access to evidence as it awaited its appearance at various trials.

“Admitted Thief”, in return for having absolutely no criminal charges brought against him, yet allowed to simply retire, confessed to the thefts and assured law enforcement that he had acted alone. He also claimed that the amount known to be stolen was all that he HAD stolen.

Naturally, law enforcement took him at his word. After all, why would “Admitted Thief” LIE?

Well, it looks like history is repeating itself here. Instead of trying to find the truth or “do justice”, the Commonwealth is more concerned with minimizing what has been going on.

Again, I remind you that this has to do with evidence and an expert witness upon who’s test results and word folks went to prison on. Particularly in cases of alleged “heavy weight” alleged drugs…for many, many years.

This is likely to have repercussions in the cases which Ex-Chemist touched. I would venture to guess, however, that those issues are likely to be given short-shrift. After all, the powers-that-be have rushed and will continue to rush to perform herculean damage control. When it comes to defense attorneys bringing forth what this could mean in their particular cases…prosecutors will fight to have any mention of it cast aside. For the most part, judges will let them, as they have allowed them to do in cases which were touched by “Admitted Thief”.

After all, this could really clog up the courts! It could mean too many “not guilty! It could cast too much doubt on the integrity of the Commonwealth’s evidence!

It should do all those things…but it won’t. I believe that, once again, the Commonwealth will be given a “pass”. A pass that includes accepting the one day ego-fit theory as described above.

This is Justice in 2012 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

And it is why you, if accused of a crime, need to be more careful than ever to have experienced and knowledgeable counsel to represent you in such cases.

For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://boston.cbslocal.com/2012/08/30/i-team-state-drug-testing-lab-closed-amid-concerns-of-mishandled-evidence/

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