(New York Daily News) More than 21,000 drug convictions in Massachusetts could be dropped thanks to a lab chemist’s tampering, in what activists call the largest dismissal of criminal convictions in American history.
The state’s Supreme Judicial Court ordered prosecutors to review remaining cases involving Annie Dookhan, a Trinidadian, who got out of prison last year for falsifying and tampering with lab results for years. Any case that could not be retried without evidence Dookhan handled is expected to be thrown out.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts said 21,587 cases have been recommended for dismissal — a number the group called historic.
“Today is a major victory for justice and fairness, and for thousands of people in the commonwealth who were unfairly convicted of drug offenses,” Matthew Segal, the legal director of the state’s ACLU, said in a statement Tuesday.
Prosecutors have reviewed 24,000 of Dookhan’s drug cases, and about 2,000 of them have already been resolved. With the expected mass dismissal, only about 300 convictions connected to Dookhan’s lab work will still stand. Many of the convicts in those cases have already served their time behind bars.
Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to forging drug test results in Boston’s William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute, and then lying about it in the investigation. She was sentenced to three years in prison.
The criminal chemist was once known as the most prolific analyst in the lab, taking a workload that astounded her bosses until investigators took a deeper look at her work.