"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; http://www.t-mlaw.com/blog/post/the-elephant-in-the-crime-lab/
GIST: "Suzanne Reardon, an assistant state attorney general, testified Wednesday she assigned a brand new employee to try to quash subpoenas in appeals of drug cases stemming from the Sonja Farak state drug lab scandal. Hampden Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey had asked Reardon who chose a brand new, inexperienced assistant attorney general for the matters related to fallout from Farak's criminal wrongdoing at the Amherst state drug lab. In a hearing before Carey this week, lawyers for 10 drug defendants have said the state's withholding of certain records is prosecutorial misconduct. They say the records would have thrown light on Farak's drug use -- and that information would have affected their clients' drug cases. The 10 defendants are looking for new trials or to withdraw their guilty pleas because Farak tested drug evidence in their cases. In January 2014, Farak, then 35, of Northampton, was given an 18-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to four counts of theft of a controlled substance from an authorized dispensary (the drug lab), four counts of tampering with evidence and two counts of possession of cocaine. Farak began using drugs from the lab as early as 2004, according to court documents released in May. The Amherst lab was closed due to her actions. Carey has said he wants facts that would show whether the case charging Farak with evidence tampering was handled properly or whether state officials intentionally buried evidence that could have been exculpatory for the defendants. Former state chemist Sonja Farak pleaded guilty to evidence tampering, drug thefts and drug possession. Ten defendants are looking for new trials or to withdraw their guilty pleas because Farak tested drug evidence in their cases. In the spotlight Wednesday were circumstances surrounding multi-day hearings held in September 2013 by then-Hampden Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder, who is now a state Appeals Court justice. Kinder held the hearings to try to determine when Farak's misconduct at the lab began in order to see how far back drug cases might have been affected. Her role in the cases was to identify the drug and determine its weight. Although Kinder was told at the 2013 hearings by then-Assistant Attorney General Kris Foster all material relating to Farak had been turned over to him, it was later discovered that the state had been in possession of mental health records found in Farak's car when she was arrested in January 2013 for drug thefts from the lab. The records included information about her treatment for drug addiction more than a year before her arrest. Those records came to light in the fall of 2014 after defense lawyer Luke Ryan was allowed to inspect evidence in the case. State officials repeatedly fought Ryan's request to look at the evidence. Hampden Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey is to decide if there was prosecutorial misconduct in cases where Sonja Farak did drug testing.
Foster testified in front of Carey on Tuesday she had been doing what her superiors ordered in her handling of the 2013 effort to quash subpoenas of a state police supervisor and all the records in the prosecution of Farak. She said she had no reason to doubt her superiors, who told her that everything from the investigation of Farak had been turned over to local prosecutors. She said she never looked at the Farak case file herself. On the witness stand Wednesday, Reardon, deputy chief of the attorney general's criminal appellate division in 2013, said Foster told her she had looked at the Farak case file herself. Both Ryan and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Caldwell had questioned Reardon before Carey took over the questioning. He asked Reardon if she had asked Foster if she had looked at the case file. "That would have been my practice," Reardon said. "I'm not asking what your practice is," said Carey. He asked did she have a present memory that Foster said she looked at the file. Reardon, after considering the question for a moment, said she did.".........When Kinder rejected the state's motion to quash the subpoena ordering Ballou to testify and bring all the records in the Farak case, he gave a short deadline for Foster to submit everything in the Farak file. He said he would review any documents that had not been turned over, which the state claimed were privileged so that they didn't have to turn over, in his chambers and decide if they were privileged. Foster responded by letter saying everything had been turned over in the case. But the mental health records and documents showing Farak's drug use had not been turned over. Carey asked Reardon what she knew about that letter from Foster to Kinder."I just don't remember that letter," Reardon said." Foster is now general counsel at the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. When Ryan quizzed Reardon about why Foster, new to the office, was assigned the task of trying to quash the subpoenas, he asked her if the Farak matter wasn't a fairly high profile case. Reardon said she didn't know if she would characterize it that way."
See related MassLive stories at the link below;
- State lawyer says she was just following orders in case of drug-abusing chemist
- Judge wants to know if Massachusetts officials intentionally buried evidence of state lab chemist Sonja Farak's drug use
- Hearings aimed at determining when ex-Amherst state lab chemist Sonya Farak began evidence tampering
- Lawyer in cocaine case: Email exchange between disgraced drug lab chemists casts doubt on test results, trial evidence
- Superior Court judge wants to know why state didn't turn over paperwork showing Sonja Farak's addiction history
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/