It is the Parole Board debacle all over again… except this time it is richly deserved. Due to the recently discovered failures of the Boston crime lab caused by ex-chemist Annie Dookhan (hereinafter, “Exchemist”) Massachusetts drug cases over the past several years are now subject to motions and appeals. Now, Commonwealth personnel are shifting as law enforcement is scrambling.
Governor Deval Patrick has named someone to lead a team of law enforcement officials and defense lawyers to investigate the fears of widespread tampering at a state drug laboratory. As in the case of the Parole Board, said leader is naturally a former high level prosecutor. In this case, his name is David Meier.
The announcement came just before two men were freed from prison because Exchemist and the fact that she may have tainted evidence in their cases.
Attorney Meier said he would approach the daunting task not as a prosecutor, defense attorney, or judge, but “as an advocate for fairness and due process on behalf of the criminal justice system.”
I have dealt with Mr. Meier in a few cases. He is a good man and has a great deal of experience in the Massachusetts criminal justice system.
“The job of the office is to make sure no one falls through the cracks,” Patrick said at a Beacon Hill press conference with Meier, who spent 20 years as a Suffolk County prosecutor before entering private practice.
The alleged mishandling of drug samples by Exchemist is feared to have jeopardized thousands of cases. If widespread tampering is confirmed, law enforcement officials and defense attorneys have said, thousands who were convicted of drug crimes or pleaded guilty to reduced charges to avoid long prison terms may be released early.
Attorney Sam’s Take On How This Could Effect you
You have heard and read a lot of discussion on this subject. Lawyers like me have opined and virtually sermonized about it. The media has continued covering it. In short, even law enforcement has had a difficult time minimizing it as they did in the case of Detective Johnson.
So far, anyway.
Now we fact the BIG question. What does this mean to you?
Aside from your stake in the country’s judicial system, shared with all your fellow-citizens, this scandal may mean quite a bit. If you, or a loved one, either have faced criminal issues in the criminal justice system, or scuffled with the varyingly named Department of Immigration, or even the Registry of Motor Vehicles, it can make a big difference.
There is a reason why we are all fumbling through years of records to find which cases Exchemist touched. Or supervised . Or even cases in which other such problems might exist independent of her.
Do you remember how inconvenient it became when it was realized that DNA could be tested in old closed cases and, when done, began to show how many innocent convicts were actually not guilty? Since then, such case have been overturned because of such findings. Despite attempts by the government to prevent the testing, defendant were, and continue to be, exonerated.
Sometimes even the ones who had been already put to death in our collective name.
What we are now seeing in the effected drug cases is likely to be quite similar. Defendants have been convicted because of evidence brought forth from Exchemist while under oath. the evidence may well have been falsified. The evidence, for whatever reason, may well have been wrong. The jury’s were misled. The defendants’ lives ruined because of the false and/or unreliable evidence.
In an effort to make sure that our clients are covered, we have not only gone through our records, but have now gotten access to the list of cases which it would appear were undeniably touched by Exchemist.
“How far reaching is this? What can be done?”
Well, first of all, of course, there is the criminal justice system itself. We are bringing motions to withdraw plea bargains and for new trials as a result of these findings. In some cases, we hope to have the findings against clients reversed and so as to rehabilitate their criminal records and the havoc to which their lives have been treated. This not only effects the individual drug findings, but in cases wherein a defendant was given extra penalties for being a habitual or career criminal, when one or more of the underlying convictions was handled by Exchemist, we try to reverse those findings as well.
However, it does not stop with the criminal justice system.
Convictions, particularly in drug cases, have other consequences to folks’ lives. For example, such convictions can either prevent someone who is trying to become a United States citizen from doing so. Such convictions can also mean deportation. Where applicable, we are trying to clear up these matters as well.
There are other agencies which take such convictions into account. For example, the Registry of Motor Vehicles will often suspend someone’s right to drive because of drug convictions. This, too, then must be addressed.
It is, of course, impossible to give a complete laundry list of the ways a conviction can effect your life. Let me sum it up in the phrase “Big Time“.
We have been, and still are of course, spending a great deal of time and resources in looking into these issues for our clients.
We believe it is worth it.
If your life has been effected as a result of false evidence, don’t you?
Let us know if you would like us to help.
In the meantime, as always, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!
For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://bostonglobe.com/2012/09/20/governor-deval-patrick-picks-former-suffolk-homicide-prosecutor-david-meier-run-dookhan-case-reviews/LSsEtT1oPFfjMxYVztikhJ/story.html