SJC Hearing Arguments to Dismiss Over 20,000 Massachusetts Drug Cases

Four years ago, Massachusetts state chemist, Annie Dookhan, was convicted of falsifying drug tests and tampering with evidence in thousands of criminal cases. Although Dookhan has completed her three-year prison sentence, many of the individuals whose drug samples she tampered with are still waiting for their time in court. But many groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts, think this process has gone on long enough. They want to find a global remedy – dismissal of the approximately 24,000 cases linked to Dookhan.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments by the ACLU and state public defenders. These groups want the cases in which Dookhan was involved to be dismissed.

“We think vacating these convictions is required to protect the rights of people who have already served their sentences and are living every day with the collateral consequences of those decisions,” said Matthew Segal, the ACLU’s legal director. “It’s also necessary to safeguard the justice system’s integrity, which has been seriously damaged, not just by the scandal itself but by how it’s been handled.”

Prosecutors Disagree

In the eyes of prosecutors, while some of the defendants may have been negatively impacted by Dookhan’s actions, many others would have been found guilty even if Dookhan hadn’t been involved. Beyond drug tests, additional evidence from surveillance videos, cellphone records, and guns was used in many of these cases. “Every case is different and every case should be approached individually,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley. “Our argument is that a global remedy is no remedy at all.” A similar blanket proposal was rejected in 2015. If you are facing drug charges, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

The ACLU and public defenders believe that handling each of the 24,000 cases on a case-by-case basis will be extraordinarily time consuming and unfair to defendants. If, for example, there are several thousand defendants whose case will eventually be dismissed when their case is heard, those defendants may have to wait years if a global remedy is not approved. In the meantime, they have to deal with the repercussions of a conviction, such as difficulty finding housing and employment.

According to the Committee for Public Counsel Services, it will take about 24 years for all 24,000 defendants to be assigned to public defenders. But prosecutors believe that is a gross overstatement. “There is now no pending backlog of Dookhan-related cases, and any defendant who wishes to file a motion to vacation or to withdraw his guilty plea or vacate his conviction can do so in the ordinary course of business with no delay,” said Wark.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Criminal Defense Law Firm Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas

With more than 50 years’ experience, the defense team at Altman & Altman, LLP has the knowledge and skill to position clients for the most favorable outcome possible. If you have been a victim of Annie Dookhan actions call us to see what your rights are. If you have been charged with any type of criminal act, we can help you determine the best way to move forward. Our lawyers have extensive experience in all types of criminal cases, from drug possession to robbery, and we have an impressive track record of getting clients’ sentences reduced or dismissed altogether. A criminal charge can have a lifelong, negative impact on your ability to find housing and get a job, among other things. It is our goal to protect your freedom and your reputation. Don’t go through this alone. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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