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Function of Juries | 10 Feb 2014

-Prosecutor Chummy with Government Chemist Who Tampered with Evidence


Cocaine3There is no shortage of evidence that prosecutors are not looking for the truth, but rather for the convictions they depend on for career advancement. This article about a massive evidence-tampering scandal uncovered last year at the Hinton Lab in Jamaica Plain in Massachusetts reveals one prosecutor’s chummy relationship with the government chemist who delivered to them the “evidence” they relied on to secure those convictions. Unfortunately, the so-called “evidence” from this chemist had been falsified, calling 40,000 cases into question.

Government Chemist Tampered With 40,000 Cases, Locking Countless Innocent Americans in Prison

Many of the prosecutors became devoted fans of Dookhan and wanted to take her out for drinks, saying she was on their “dream team.” The Boston Globe provided an email between Dookhan and a prosecutor with whom she had a particularly friendly relationship:

“Glad we are on the same team,” he once wrote Dookhan — including one day in May 2010 when he told her he needed a marijuana sample to weigh at least 50 pounds so that he could charge the owners with drug trafficking.

“Any help would be greatly appreciated!” he wrote, punctuating each sentence with a long string of exclamation points. “Thank you!”

Two hours later, Dookhan responded: “OK . . . definitely Trafficking, over 80 lbs.” ­Papachristos thanked her profusely.

While chemist Annie Dookhan’s corrupt fingerprints were on some 40,000 cases, leading innocent people to spend years EACH in jail, not to mention destroying marriages, tearing children apart from their parents, ending careers, deporting innocent immigrants, and so on, she may serve as little as 3 years of her 3-5 year sentence for this massive fraud wreaking havoc and violence on the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Meanwhile, thousands of cases tied to her remain in legal limbo. Earlier this year, the Massachusetts ACLU asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss all such cases.

State ACLU urges Mass. high court to dismiss all Annie Dookhan cases

Saying that the state had failed over the past two years to coordinate a proper response to the scandal, the civil liberties group asked a Supreme Judicial Court judge to order prosecutors to determine within 90 days whether they want to pursue individual cases. If so, the prosecutors would have six months to resolve the cases with a trial or a guilty plea.

The group also asked the judge to prohibit prosecutors from seeking tougher penalties against people who have already been convicted and sentenced but want their cases reviewed. The group said the risk of tougher punishment has intimidated defendants from filing legitimate challenges to their convictions, interfering with their constitutional right to a fair trial.

In the filing, the ACLU argued that defendants with cases tied to Dookhan should not have to decide whether to challenge their charges or convictions — and that the court should instead dismiss them all and put the burden on prosecutors of deciding which cases still have merit.

Segal said the conditions at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain where Dookhan worked were so poor that the state has not even been able to identify the court docket numbers for the cases that Dookhan was involved in, never mind identify the defendants’ lawyers or set new court hearings.

“The attorney general has said that the response to the Hinton lab scandal has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars, yet all that money has not even brought a list of docket numbers, let alone justice,” Segal said. “It’s time for a smarter approach.”

This scandal broke back in 2011, yet the vast majority of defendants convicted and now imprisoned based on a dishonest government employee’s falsified lab results are STILL in prison. Prosecutors who were more than happy to accept speedy results from the lab favorable to conviction are in no hurry whatsoever to right the wrongs that have been done to an unknown number of innocent people.

Jurors should keep in mind that there is an inherent conflict of interest when government test results are used to make the government’s case for mass incarceration. Having an official government stamp on a piece of paper from a lab does not exempt these test results from the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.