40,000 MA Drug Cases Could Be Thrown Out Because Of Drug Stealing Lab Scandal

A Massachusetts crime lab scandal could result in tens of thousands of criminal convictions being overturned. It’s not the first time this has happened in the state either.

As Addicting Info reported in May of last year, up to 60,000 drug cases were impacted by a scandal that rocked the Hinton Drug Lab, located in Boston, MA.

In that case, a chemist by the name of Annie Dookhan plead guilty to 27 criminal charges, including “tampering with evidence, violating the state witness intimidation statute, multiple counts of lying to a grand jury, falsely claiming to carry a degree and others.”

Over a 14 year period, Dookhan forged documents, testified falsely in criminal cases and tampered with test results while employed as a chemist at the state crime lab.

After Dookhan’s confession thousands of convictions were overturned and hundreds of cases, which were still pending, were dismissed.

The state of MA conducted a 15-month-long investigation into the crime lab, finding “a pattern of neglect, mismanagement, and poor standards.”

In spite of the state’s findings, no other employees faced criminal charges. The Hinton lab was eventually closed down.

Now another MA drug lab is facing a massive backlash, after court documents revealed a separate scandal involving drug use, evidence tampering and a series of other crimes earlier this week.

As the Boston Herald reports, Amherst state lab chemist Sonja Farak was convicted in 2014 of tampering with evidence, theft and drug use inside the crime lab, where she was employed for more than eight years.

At the height of her criminal activity, Farak was smoking crack ten to twelve times a day inside the crime lab, as well as using a host of other drugs which she obtained through the lab.

Farak confessed to using the drugs at her work station, where she also tested samples submitted by law enforcement.

She also confessed to being high while giving testimony in criminal cases and during interviews with police.

While she was convicted of multiple crimes in 2014, officials did not disclose important details about how Farak’s criminal activities had likely compromised tens of thousands of cases that she worked on.

It took an order from the state Supreme Court to finally bring the extent of her misconduct to light.

The ACLU released a statement on the Farak case, saying:

“The magnitude of the Amherst Lab misconduct rivals the similar scandal at the Hinton Lab, involving disgraced chemist Annie Dookhan, and the twin Massachusetts scandals have no known parallel elsewhere in the country.”

Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, went on to state:

“There is only one sensible response to these revelations: promptly notify the people who were denied due process, undo their wrongful convictions, and rethink the unjust war on drugs.”

The Boston Herald reports that Farak may have tainted the results in as many as 40,000 cases during the eight years she worked as a state crime lab chemist.

Combined, the Dookhan and Farak scandals in MA alone could easily have caused more than 100,000 innocent people to be wrongfully imprisoned.

If rampant corruption in just two state crime labs can result in the destruction of so many lives, we have to ask ourselves what is the impact when combined with corrupt law enforcement, corrupt courts and a corrupt penal system that thrives on profit?

As the ACLU states here, fighting the failed war on drugs has only served to undermine the integrity of the entire criminal justice system.

It’s time to end the failed drug war, once and for all.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons