More than 20,000 drug cases tied to a disgraced former state chemist appear headed for dismissal, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and public defenders said Tuesday as they combed through legal filings from local prosecutors in Massachusetts.Of course, people like racist Attorney General Jeff Session think that this is some sort of technicality that demoralizes law enforcement.
“We’re all overjoyed today at having what is, we think, the largest dismissal of criminal cases as a result of one case in the history of the United States of America,” said Carl Williams, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts, which has pressed for the dismissal of tainted cases.
It was the latest development in the yearslong story of Annie Dookhan, a chemist whose co-workers called her Superwoman because she worked so fast. But she was found to have mishandled drug samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she never bothered to test, and in 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence.
By then, the damage was done. Prosecutors and defenders around the state had already begun the imposing task of figuring out which convictions had been tainted by the failings. Early estimates rose above 40,000. Hundreds of people were released from prison.
In January, the state’s highest court ordered district attorneys to produce the lists of people they believe they could reprosecute, were a new trial permitted, and those whose cases they will dismiss. Those decisions were due on Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers combed through spreadsheets inside an ornate courthouse here, and counted 21,587 likely dismissals. They had estimated that prosecutors would not vacate the convictions of 500 to 700 people.
This is corruption, and the people around her knew that something was wrong, but because it favored prosecutors, law enforcement never paid attention.
This is why we need things like the exclusionary rule and meaningful and independent investigations of law enforcement misconduct.