In finishing this 3-part-blog, we turn away from police officers and video tapes. Those specifics were not the point that I think is vital to be made.
I read on masslive.com, as well as several other venues, the story of Sonja Farak (the “Chemist”) and her tale of woe.
She is the latest Commonwealth chemist who has admitted to tainting and falsifying drug evidence to the point that thousands of criminal convictions have to be thrown out…after many folks have already spent significant time behind bars and had their lives ruined because of her.
The Chemist has admitted that she indulged a voracious drug habit for years, siphoning police evidence she was tasked with preserving and testing.
She was arrested in 2013 and pleaded guilty in 2014.
Of course, she is not the only such chemist who has gone rogue. Over the past years, you and I have discussed a number of cases where evidence had been significantly tampered with by chemists, police officers and other prosecutorial officials.
In the case involving the Chemist, it would appear that the deceit did not end with her. According to another article in Masslive, a Hampden Superior Court judge has lashed out at two former Massachusetts assistant attorneys general involved in the investigation of the Chemist.
The judge wrote, “It has been startling to see unveiled the amount of damage done by a single lab analyst, [the Chemist], who placed her own selfish wants and needs before her duties as a public servant in a critically important role…Similarly, but in many ways more damning, the conduct of two assistant attorneys general, (Anne) Kaczmarek and (Kris) Foster, compounded and aggravated the damage caused by [the Chemist]. Their intentional and deceptive actions ensured that justice would certainly be delayed, if not outright denied, and in the process, they violated their oaths as assistant attorneys general and officers of the court.”
Kaczmarek left the attorney general’s office in 2014 and is now an assistant clerk magistrate in Suffolk County. Foster is general counsel at the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Still apparently dedicated Commonwealth agents.
Notwithstanding the above, the Honorable Judge Richard J. Carey called the conduct by Kaczmarek and Foster in the Farak matter “fraud upon the court.”
The remaining debris of this particularly court disorder is the deciding upon the fate of the multitudes who have had their lives ruined by this particular series of frauds. While deciding whether to dismiss various cases, the Commonwealth has the task of defending a $5.7 million federal lawsuit files against the Chemist and a slew of city and state officials.
Judge Carey said, “Hopefully, this decision marks the beginning of the end of this sad chapter of Massachusetts legal history.”
“This sad chapter”…singular? If we want to pretend that this is the case, then I’m sorry…it won’t be.
I think we need to agree to two things right off.
Police officers, chemists, prosecutors and all those who act on the part of the Commonwealth are human beings.
Human beings have foibles. Weakness. They can include greed, addiction and a whole lot more
As poor a math student as I was, I believe that, at least in this case, the equation leads to an understanding that those folks listed in 1 have foibles such as those listed in 2.
By and large, however, those same people, as well as others in power, seem to labor under the delusion that this equation does not exist.
You go ahead and have your experienced criminal defense attorney argue that an officer’s or a chemist’s credibility should be questioned and you have already damaged your credibility. Oh, you will probably be allowed to argue it, but it will generally be quickly disregrded.
“But, Sam, don’t you agree that, most times, those folks are simply doing their jobs?”
I do. Further, I believe that most officers are more reluctant than many of us to lie on the stand and commit other criminal acts. But I can tell you from experience that it does happen. Much more often than you might expect or certainly, more than the courts and prosecutors recognize.
I can also tell you from experience that, no matter how well proven it is in the courtroom, I have yet to see such folks punished for committing perjury…so long as they were testifying for the government…unless it results in an undeniable scandal like this.
Frankly, it is almost as if the powers that be are either ignorant or simply do not care.
Call it the bias of an ex-prosecutor who used to have officers answer the question of how a certain arrest or search took place with “Which way would be better?”, and would not accept it.
Of course, there is the prosecutorial theory of “willful blindness”, but that’s an argument for another day.
The argument for today is that something must be done to bring the people, the courts and the prosecutors to recognize reality. Commonwealth witnesses simply because they are Commonwealth witnesses should not be treated as if they are bathed in the light of the truth every time they offer testimony.
At trial, judges tell juries that they should not automatically accept such witnesses’ word simply because of their positions. But then, they also tell the juries that the accused in innocent unless and until proven guilty.
And we have many times discussed how that works out, at least prior to trial…!