State supreme court considers global remedy for 24,000 unresolved Dookhan cases Wednesday

November 15, 2016 11:45 am

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BOSTON — The long-running, high-stakes litigation over a global remedy for roughly 24,000 unresolved cases stemming from the Dookhan drug lab scandal goes before the full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, again, on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 11am. On behalf of three named petitioners and all other “Dookhan defendants,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the national ACLU, the state public defender agency CPCS, and Fick & Marx LLP have asked the state high court to vacate the 24,000 cases in which people were convicted based on tainted evidence arising from Dookhan’s misconduct.

For years, District Attorneys have insisted that it is possible to retry these cases individually. But the brief filed by the petitioners in September shows why that approach is impossible and designed to fail. Even with a significant infusion of resources, public defenders would need 48 years to assign attorneys to all 24,000 defendants.

“Make no mistake, the 24,000 victims of the Dookhan drug lab scandal have already served their prison sentences, and they continue to suffer, every day, the harsh collateral consequences of their unfair drug convictions, which compromise their employment prospects, educational opportunities and immigration status,” said Daniel Marx, of Fick & Marx LLP. “It is a disgrace that Massachusetts is home to the two largest forensic lab scandals in the nation, but that in the past four years, since this litigation began, little meaningful progress has been made toward fixing these problems and preventing future scandals. And it is difficult to understand why prosecutors–whose job is to do justice, not win convictions at all costs–have fought against efforts to do right by Dookhan defendants, every step of the way, and still cling to tens of thousands of tainted convictions.”

“The state used tainted evidence to convict and punish the people in these 24,000 cases,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Because our state does not have the resources to relitigate these cases one by one, there will be a one-size-fits all outcome of some kind: either these 24,000 tainted convictions will be vacated, which would help defendants move on with their lives and help to restore the justice system’s integrity, or else the vast majority of these unjust convictions will never be challenged.”

The oral arguments in the case will take place in the context of a second unresolved Massachusetts drug lab scandal, in which chemist Sonja Farak consumed drugs from a criminal drug lab in Amherst for eight years. Farak’s misconduct may have tainted an additional 18,000 cases, further increasing the burdens on the defense bar. In fact, from 2004 to 2010, when both Dookhan and Farak were employed as chemists, their misconduct tainted one in four drug cases in Massachusetts.

WHAT: Oral arguments on global remedy for 24,000 unresolved Dookhan cases

WHERE: Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Courtroom 1

WHEN: Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 11am

For a detailed timeline of the Dookhan and Farak lab scandals, go to:
https://aclum.org/dookhan-farak-timeline

For more information about the case, Bridgeman v. District Attorney for Suffolk County, go to:
https://aclum.org/cases-briefs/bridgeman-v-district-attorney-for-suffolk-county/

For a litigation timeline, go to:
https://aclum.org/litigation-timeline-bridgeman-v-suffolk-district-attorney/

View oral arguments online at:
http://www.suffolk.edu/sjc/

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to:
http://www.aclum.org

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