Source: Urban Intellectuals
In 2013 big news hit as state chemist Annie Dookhan was convicted for potentially sending 1000s of black men to jail for falsified and fabricated evidence in 10s of 1000s of drug cases. Now finally in what has been described as the largest single dismissal of wrongful criminal convictions in U.S. history, a Massachusetts court has dismissed over 21,000 drug-related cases. Hopefully this means 10,000s of wrongfully convicted people will soon walk free. Of course nothing will get back their lost lives, their tarnished reputations and the damage they suffered in the prison system.
Atlanta Black Star reported:
On April 19 in Boston, a state court judge vacated the convictions in the case of Bridgeman v. District Attorney for Suffolk County, which was filed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, the national ACLU, the state public defender’s office and law firm Fick & Marx LLP.
The drug convictions — which spanned the seven counties of Suffolk, Essex, Bristol, Middlesex, Plymouth, Norfolk and Cape & Islands — had relied on the doctored lab results of Annie Dookhan, whose misdeeds came to light in 2012 after she forged a colleague’s initials. The employee with the state Department of Public Health had lied about having a master’s degree, declared untested drug samples as positive and otherwise committed massive fraud in order to advance her career and build a reputation as an expert witness in drug trials.
In 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including evidence tampering, perjury and obstruction of justice, and was sentenced to three to five years in prison, with two years of probation, according to The New York Times. She was recently paroled after serving three years, as UPI reported.
Dookhan’s work had impacted approximately 24,000 cases according to the ACLU of Massachusetts, with prosecutors moving to toss out 21,587 of the convictions. Out of 8,003 cases from Suffolk County, 7,886 were dismissed, as Masslive.com reported.
Jake Wark, press secretary for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, told Atlanta Black Star that his office had learned of several cases in 2012 in which Dookhan had certified inert substances as illicit. “We immediately acted to terminate the prosecutions in those cases and, very fortunately, none was serving a sentence based solely on a Dookhan-related case,” Wark said. “Since that time, the appeals have been on procedural grounds, not factual ones. That is, the defendants didn’t claim to be innocent but rather claimed that they would not have pleaded guilty or, in a smaller number of cases, could have obtained a more favorable trial verdict, had Dookhan’s misconduct been known at the time of adjudication.”
The court ordered prosecutors to list the convictions they would move to dismiss and those cases they would choose to relitigate. Court documents acknowledged the “continuing adverse consequences of these convictions” on the wrongfully condemned, and the burden of these cases have imposed on the criminal justice system. “District Attorney Conley made the decision to focus only on the most serious convictions involving high-level or violent offenders,” Wark said. “So, while the re-tested drugs, scales, baggies, cutting agents, ledgers, phone records, surveillance video, independent witness statements and other evidence were likely still available and admissible in thousands of the lower-level cases, he moved to dismiss them and concentrate on the most serious 117 — about 1.5 percent of the total.”
Carl Williams, staff attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, said his organization faced resistance and had to sue the district attorney’s office to bring about the thousands of dismissals. He stated in a phone interview that this, “the largest dismissal of criminal cases based on a single court filing in history,” is part of a systemic problem involving prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and jailers.
“This is the war on drugs,” Williams said of the larger implications of Dookhan. “Over 24,000 cases from eight years, and they called her superwoman because she was doing the bidding of the system of mass incarceration and the war on drugs. If it were anything else, if it were for rich people, for white people, this would not be allowed to stand” he added. “With the war on drugs, it is inevitable that you will have scandals involving injustice.”
Read more on Atlanta Black Star and watch the video report below: