With each day, the scandal over the Boston-based State Crime Lab and its problems in the testing of illegal drugs is becoming more and more serious. For example, Suffolk County judges have freed at least 11 defendants facing drug charges. Said defendants range from no record to lengthy criminal records.
These defendants were in jail awaiting trial on drug charges. Their cases had been touched by ex-chemist Annie Dookhan (“Exchemist”). Such touching, like any other disease, has tainted the cases. Severely.
Prosecutors, as one might expect, are not happy. As has recently been the case (again) with ex-prosecutor Christopher Darden of O.J. Simpson fame, prosecutors tend to whine when something like this happens. Partiularly when it is this embarassing.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley has already taken a position fitting as we near the holiday of Halloween. He may as well wear a scary mask as he tries to frighten the citizenry.
“We have an obligation to protect every defendant’s constitutional rights, and we embrace it,” Conley decries, “But we can’t lose sight of the massive public safety implications here. A large number of dangerous individuals could be released right back to our streets and neighborhoods.” He continues to complain that some of the prisoners who could soon be released include “high-level dealers, violent felons, and armed gunmen.”
Translation: “Aw, come on….I know we have to honor that constitution-thing and yadda-yadda-yadda…but these folks who are presumed innocent unless I can prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (which I now might not be able to do) are getting free!”
In other words, the prosecutorial sky is falling.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Prosecutorial Responsibility
As time has gone by, matters are getting worse from the prosecutorial viewpoint.
Now, even defendants who had had their cases closed are coming back to challenge their conviction from days gone by. The argument is that, of course, the evidence was tainted and so, at the very least, the drugs have to be re-tested.
“What if the drugs no longer exist?”
Then, the Commonwealth would not be able to prove the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if the convictions are thrown out.
We have been spending a great deal of time discussing this story…and will be discussing it for awhile more. We are also getting involved in such cases, representing clients who have been effected by the tainted evidence.
“Sam, you criticize the prosecutors for complaining about this problem and that folks are getting out of custody as a result. What are they supposed to be doing?”
The term “cleaning house” comes to mind.
Those incidentals called the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights are things which prosecutors have sworn to uphold. After all, it is their job to see that “Justice” is done. their job description is not simply to win convictions and have wonderful political futures.
If these problems exist…it is the job of law enforcement to find them, fix them and prevent them in the future.
One would hope that such folks, upon learning of corruption on the side of law enforcement, would be leading the charge to investigate such matters…eager to show itself with clean hands.
Such hopes would be dashed.
These are the days of a wink and nod to a felonious Detective being treated as a credible source as to his own criminality and looking no further.No reprucussions. No criminal charges. Nothing.
The reaction of law enforcement? The District Attorney who cares so much about the cause of Justice? Well, the office just circles the wagons…trying to prevent internal materials from getting out.
Did they immediately investigate further to make sure this was not happenning elsewhere?
Not as far as we know.
And now…the lab debacle. The position of the Commonwealth? Well, so far Exchemist has been labled a “rogue” chemist. They would have you believe that she must have acted alone. Nobody else in the history of law enforcement has tainted evidence but her.
All this on the basis of no really serious investigation except for a damage-control approach taken with limited parameters at this time.
Does that smell like integrity and responsibility to you? To me it has a much more pungent odor.
The day that law enforcement, including the politicians who lead them, take a proactive step in unveiling or preventing these problems…that is the day they will have clean hands. That will be the day prosecutors are living up to their responsibilities.
Until then…they are simply advocates who have had their evidentiary pants pulled down and exposed once again as being no holier than thou!
For the original stories upon which this blog is based, please go to http://articles.boston.com/2012-09-23/metro/34020618_1_drug-defendant-drug-charges-drug-samples and http://bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/09/24/judge-overturns-drug-and-gun-convictions-suffolk-case-lab-scandal-impact-widens/z9qtkYKjVN7gYB7Soo62ZN/story.html