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Suffolk DA moves to vacate 108 drug cases that involved evidence that might have been mishandled by disgraced state chemist

The Suffolk County District Attorney's office announced today it's seeking court orders to vacate some 108 drug convictions that involved evidence certified as illegal drugs by Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the state labs in Jamaica Plain convicted in 2013 of just making stuff up.

The DA's office and its counterparts in other counties sought to dismiss more than 21,000 Dookhan-related drug convictions in 2017. Today's filings relate to cases in which then Suffolk DA Dan Conley's office said it had enough evidence to convict people even without Dookhan's drug certifications.

In a statement this morning, current DA Rachael Rollins cited a couple of reasons for moving to vacate the remaining cases:

All List Three cases are forever tainted by egregious and reprehensible government misconduct - even if fresh convictions were to be obtained without Dookhan’s involvement. No defendant impacted by this ignominious chapter of Massachusetts law enforcement history should continue to bear the burden of Dookhan’s deceit, her sad and desperate need for attention, and the enormous amount of harm she inflicted upon so many. ...

In these cases, there were mandatory minimums that make it infinitely easier to persuade and leverage defendants to plead guilty. A recent Harvard Law School study commissioned by the late Chief Justice Ralph Gants found that Superior Court cases with Black and Latinx defendants are more likely to include a charge that carries a mandatory minimum incarceration sentence.

Also:

We are now in the midst of unprecedented challenges due to a global pandemic. With courts struggling to reopen and prosecutors and public defenders being furloughed, it makes little sense to expend additional resources litigating Dookhan cases, some of which are more than 15 years old.

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Comments

Dookhan was convicted in 2013. That's seven years ago, by my reckoning. First batch of dismissals was in 2017.

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Voting closed 30

This is vacating convictions. very different from dismissal.

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Voting closed 29

This is only happening because DA Rollins watched Trial 4 on Netflix set in Boston. She received a lot of flack online for her comments on Sean Ellis' case and DA Dan Conley/Boston Police.

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Voting closed 21

Has there been any discussion about DCF cases in which this lab was used? I am a clinician/evaluator working with families (not employed by the department) and I frequently see records with tox screen results from this lab during this time. Has this been looked into at all?

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Voting closed 9