Friday, December 16, 2016

Sonja Farak; Massachusetts; Bulletin: White Elephant Case; Ongoing hearing; Ex-state official was 'freaking out' over failure to disclose Amherst drug lab scandal information to defence lawyers. (MassLIve)..."Thursday was the fourth full day of a hearing, which continues Friday. Lawyers for 10 drug defendants have said the state's failure to disclose 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."...Reporter Buffy Spencer; MassLive. December 15, 2016.... |

Image result for "white elephant"

In the years since I started publishing this Blog I have become increasingly disturbed by the 'white elephant' in the room: Sheer, unadulterated, willful   misconduct in the criminal justice system - much  of it involving forensic evidence - committed by lab technicians,  pathologists, police officers, prosecutors and others.  Think Annie Dookhan; Think Sonia Farak; Think David Kofoed; Think Charles Smith; Think Ken Anderson; Think Gene Morrison.  I have therefore decided to run this image of a white elephant at the top of every applicable post henceforth, to draw our reader's attention to   what I see as a major problem in all too many criminal justice system's - my own included.  Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
"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;
Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

"John Verner, until this year head of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office criminal bureau, had strong words to describe his feelings about finding out that documents connected to Sonja Farak's drug addiction had not been turned over to district attorneys. "I was angry. I was upset. I was shocked. I was frustrated," Verner said Thursday about his November 2014 discovery. "I was pissed." He was testifying at a hearing in front of Hampden Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey dealing with fallout from Farak's criminal wrongdoing at the Amherst state drug lab, where she was a state chemist.  Verner said he was "freaking out." He said he would never have authorized or ordered anyone to intentionally withhold the documents. "I would never, ever, ever do that ... That's not who I am," Verner said.  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. 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. 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. Although testimony has been wide ranging, the focus is mental health and substance abuse treatment 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 Luke Ryan, lawyer for some of the drug defendants, was allowed to inspect evidence in the case. State police and the attorney general's office had had the records since searching Farak's car shortly after her arrest. State officials repeatedly fought Ryan's request to look at the evidence. Verner testified his office didn't want anyone going through evidence before the tampering case against Farak was resolved. Verner, who is now a Suffolk County assistant district attorney dealing with cold case homicides, said he believed all information had been turned over to district attorneys so they could distribute them as discovery to lawyers who were arguing their clients were affected by Farak's behavior. He said he had seen references in emails and a memo to mental health records during the prosecution of Farak. He said it would not be his role to check with individual assistant attorneys general to see if they turned over all the required material. "They know what they have to do," Verner said."