State high court weighs solutions for state drug lab scandal

Two cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court could determine whether people whose convictions were obtained by fraud will continue paying the price for the state drug lab scandal.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 9, 2013

CONTACT:
Christopher Ott, Communications Director, 617-482-3170 x322, cott@aclum.org

BOSTON -- The following statement may be attributed to Matthew R. Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts:

"The Massachusetts drug lab scandal has tainted as many as 190,000 cases. But the approach to addressing the crisis taken by the Commonwealth and the Essex County District Attorney--retrying cases one by one, and keeping defendants in prison while they wait in line for court hearings--has worsened it.

"In two cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the national ACLU, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services argued for a prompt, cost-efficient, and just approach to the drug lab scandal. We argued that defendants whose convictions appear to have been obtained by fraud should not have to wait months or years for justice, while the District Attorney's Office argued that the Supreme Judicial Court should actually take away tools that the trial courts have been using to deal with this scandal. That approach would strain the courts, waste tax dollars, and needlessly delay justice."

The following statement may be attributed to Emma Andersson, staff attorney with the national ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project:

"We hope that the Supreme Judicial Court will ensure that the defendants harmed by the drug lab scandal get the relief that justice demands in this unique situation. Beyond these cases, we hope that the Commonwealth will address this problem fairly and comprehensively."

Tens of thousands of drug convictions appear to have been obtained unconstitutionally in Massachusetts because chemist Annie Dookhan allegedly falsified test results. Since shortly after news of the scandal broke, the ACLU of Massachusetts has consistently called for broad-based relief for the victims of the Hinton drug lab scandal, such as dismissing all cases that do not involve violent crime or weapons offenses, that involve a police officer or prosecutor who, at any time, communicated directly with Dookhan, or that involve a defendant who has served at least half of his or her sentence. In addition, the ongoing Inspector General's investigation has revealed that the problem extends beyond Dookhan—the entire lab was governed by insufficient procedures that resulted in sloppy and unreliable forensic analysis.

For more information about the cases before the Supreme Judicial Court today, go to:
http://aclum.org/drug_lab