Drug Lab Chemist Scandal to Result in More Than 1,600 Dismissals on Cape & Islands

FILE – In this Nov. 22, 2013 file photo, former state chemist Annie Dookhan sits in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. Dookhan pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and falsifying thousands of tests in criminal drug cases, calling into question evidence used to prosecute the defendants. The state’s highest court ordered the district attorneys in Massachusetts to produce lists by Tuesday, April 18, 2017, indicating how many of the approximately 24,000 tainted cases they would not or could not prosecute if new trials were ordered. (David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool, File)

BOSTON (AP) — District attorneys across Massachusetts are recommending more than 21,000 drug convictions in Massachusetts be dismissed.

They were all tainted by a former state drug lab chemist who pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and falsifying tests.

Cape and Islands District Michael O’Keefe said 1,067 cases will have to be dismissed locally. He said at least 2,400 cases have been examined since 2012.

“The misconduct of a single chemist was allowed to morph into a statewide crisis by the lack of oversight of Governor Patrick’s Department of Public Health,” said O’Keefe.

The ACLU said Tuesday night the final statewide tally is 21,587 cases, which the group says could make it the largest mass dismissal of criminal convictions in U.S. history.

The state Supreme Judicial Court had ordered district attorneys in eastern Massachusetts to produce lists by the end of Tuesday indicating how many of the approximately 24,000 involving Annie Dookhan they’d be unwilling or unable to prosecute if new trials were ordered.

In a statement, O’Keefe said the dismissals did not involve innocent people.

“Let’s keep in mind that we are not dealing with actual innocence here, we are dealing with drug defendants the overwhelming majority of whom plead guilty, went through an exhaustive plea colloquy with a judge and testified under oath that they were ‘pleading guilty because they were guilty and for no other reason,’” according to his statement.

Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence and was sentenced to three years in prison.

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