Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Annie Dookhan: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court permits courts to continue freeing defendants who are challenging their convictions in Dookhan case; Mass. American Civil Liberties Union legal director says it well: "You can't rest a conviction on fraud."

STORY: "Staying of jail terms upheld by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court: Rules in cases tied to lab abuses," by reporter Peter Schworm, published by the Boston Globe on July 22, 2013.

GIST:  "The state’s highest court has ruled that judges have the authority to stay the sentences of so-called Dookhan defendants who are seeking new trials, upholding the legal framework created to review hundreds of cases tied to the state drug lab scandal. In a decision issued Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the “exceptional circumstances” surrounding convictions tied to Annie Dookhan, the former state chemist who allegedly falsified suspected drug samples, gave Superior Court judges the power to free defendants who are challenging their convictions. “The allegations of misconduct at the Hinton drug lab have given rise to serious concerns about defendants who may be incarcerated as a consequence of tainted convictions,” the ruling stated. “Thus, a defendant’s motion to stay the execution of his sentence should be decided in an expeditious manner.” While largely procedural, the decision highlighted the swirl of legal questions surrounding Dookhan-related cases, which have flooded the judicial system and led to the release of hundreds of defendants, more than 300 from state prisons and more from county facilities.........Last fall, Essex County prosecutors contested motions to stay sentences in more than 50 cases involving allegedly tainted drug evidence, contending that the judge lacked the authority to stay sentences in the absence of a pending appeal. The court disagreed, saying “the interest of justice is not served by the continued imprisonment of a defendant who may be entitled to a new trial.” “The magnitude of the allegations of serious and far-reaching misconduct by Dookhan at the Hinton drug lab cannot be overstated,” the ruling stated. “The alleged misconduct may have compromised thousands of cases.” Dookhan faces a host of criminal charges related to mishandling or falsifying drug evidence. She has pleaded not guilty. Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said the decision marked a “complete rejection” of prosecutors’ attempt to challenge the system set up to handle the Dookhan cases. “It said the exact procedure being used is fine,” he said. The court went a step further, Segal said, in indicating that Dookhan’s involvement in cases may be enough to warrant a new trial. “My hope is that courts will look at this opinion and see reasons for granting new trials,” he said. “You can’t rest a conviction on fraud.”"

The entire story can be found at:


  The entire story can be found at:


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