"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.
From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009;
STORY: "Mass. Court To Hear Bid To Dismiss 24K Drug Cases Handled By Annie Dookhan," by Associated Press Legal Affairs reporter Denise Lavoie, published by CBS Boston on November 13, 2016.
GIST: "It’s been more than four years since the full extent of misconduct by a former Massachusetts chemist became public knowledge. The state chemist, Annie Dookhan, has already completed a three-year prison sentence for tampering with evidence and falsifying drug tests in criminal cases. But many of the defendants whose drug samples she handled still haven’t gotten their day in court to challenge their convictions. This week, the highest court in Massachusetts will hear a request for a global remedy it’s already rejected once: mass dismissal of about 24,000 criminal cases in which Dookhan played a role in testing drugs. Arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court are scheduled Wednesday in a case brought by state public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. The groups want the court to vacate convictions or other adverse results in all cases in which Dookhan was either the primary or secondary chemist on samples sent to the state lab by local police departments. “We think vacating these convictions is required to protect the rights of people who have already served their sentences and are living every day with the collateral consequences of those decisions,” said Matthew Segal, the ACLU’s legal director. “It’s also necessary to safeguard the justice system’s integrity, which has been seriously damaged, not just by the scandal itself but by how it’s been handled.” Prosecutors are strongly opposed to the idea of dismissing thousands of cases outright. Instead, they argue, challenges should be heard by judges on a case-by-case basis, as they have been in Dookhan cases since 2012.........The SJC rejected a similar proposal for a blanket dismissal of cases in 2015. But public defenders and the ACLU say that was before the full scope of cases handled by Dookhan was known. Prosecutors had supplied an initial list of names in 2013, but it did not contain specific information about criminal cases, Segal said. Six months ago, prosecutors provided a comprehensive list, he said. Segal said asking the courts to handle each of the 24,000 cases one by one would be impractical, time-consuming and unfair to defendants who have had to deal with damage caused by their criminal convictions, including difficulties finding housing or employment. The Committee for Public Counsel Services estimates it would take 24 years to assign public defenders to represent defendants in all 24,000 cases. “This is just too many cases for the indigent defense system and the courts to handle,” Segal said. The state is also dealing with another lab scandal. Investigators say former chemist Sonja Farak was high almost every day over the eight years she worked at a drug lab in Amherst. Her case has put thousands of criminal cases in jeopardy. Farak pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and related charges in 2014. She served 18 months in prison and is now on probation."
The entire story can be found at:
See related Propublica story (November 10, 2016) by reporter Patrick G. Lee; "Thousands of Potentially Wrongful Convictions; Years of Delayed Action" - by reporter Patrick G. Lee, at the link below: "A review of the Dookhan scandal’s legal saga shows: Prosecutors fought efforts to allow those jailed or imprisoned based on potentially suspect evidence freed pending a review of their cases; Prosecutors at one point argued they actually had no obligation to inform those convicted of their possible innocence. Not surprisingly, it took four years for prosecutors to even attempt to systematically notify the thousands of defendants that their convictions might have been won unfairly. And when prosecutors at last mailed a formal notice, it lacked essential information about developments in the case, was poorly translated into Spanish and did not clearly say who had sent it, according to lawyers for the defendants. Around 6,000 of the notifications were returned as undeliverable; One prosecutor suggested that many of the defendants might be too poor or caught up with mental illness and addiction to care about contesting convictions on their records. For those who did want to challenge their convictions, prosecutors argued they ought to be required to come forward individually and affirmatively establish that Dookhan had mishandled evidence in their specific case."
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/