Massachusetts crime lab scandal may involve more wrongdoing

According to a recent court order, a decade-long scandal at a Massachusetts crime lab — which has led to tens of thousands of drug convictions being dismissed — may involve more wrongdoing by more people than previously known.

The state Supreme Court judge said in a ruling regarding the release of a prized collection of government investigative materials that there is evidence that other employees of the William A. Judge John T Law wrote last week that at least one person was referred to the state attorney general’s office in 2015 for possible prosecution.

The ruling raises doubts about the statements of the Office of the Inspector General of State over the past eight years that Dukhan was “The only bad actor“At Hinton’s lab. That means a wide scandal can grow.”

“This is an important development,” said Matthew Segal, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts, who led the defense attorneys’ battle to expose the massive misconduct catastrophe at two Massachusetts government-run laboratories that prompted the state’s highest court to drop 61,000 drug charges.

Annie Dukan
Annie Dukan, center, is escorted outside her home by authorities in Franklin, Massachusetts, on September 28, 2012.Bizuayehu Tesfaye / AP

Dookhan’s misconduct at Hinton’s lab was exposed in 2012, after she worked there for nearly a decade. She admitted to tampering with evidence, falsifying and lying about test results, according to court records. She spent three years in prison and was released in 2016. Most of the people she helped convict low-level drug offenses pleaded guilty and finished their sentences long before she could go to trial, according to her defense attorney. More than 21,000 cases I’ve worked on have been dismissed.

Law’s September 16 ruling is linked to cases in Middlesex County where defendants are challenging drug convictions based on evidence that defense attorneys say was processed in Hinton’s lab — not by Smoke, but by other chemists, including Sonia Farak.

Farak worked in Hinton’s lab from 2002 to August 2004 before moving to a government lab in Amherst, where she fed on drug addiction using samples she was supposed to analyze in criminal cases, according to court records. In 2014, she pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and drug theft charges and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. more than 16000 The cases I worked on were rejected.

Frac has not been charged with any wrongdoing related to her work at Hinton.

Parting and Dukhan could not be reached for comment.

The defendants in Middlesex County are challenging their convictions, saying the state failed to specifically investigate Frac and other chemists while they worked at Hinton.

“We have to get to the bottom of what happened in Hinton,” said James B. McKenna, who represents two of the convicted Middlesex defendants with evidence tested by smokeless chemists.

Former Massachusetts Inspector General Glenn A. Konha, who retired this year, said in 2019, his office did not specifically investigate Frac’s work at Hinton. Cunha did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Dukhan and Farak’s misconduct and its aftermath have been an ongoing embarrassment to the state, and they have turned its criminal justice system upside down. The state attorney general’s office estimated last year that as many as 250,000 convictions resulted from lab work in closed now Hinton’s lab when Smoke, Farc, and other chemists worked there.

Thousands of wrongfully convicts have gone to jail or jail or lost their jobs, homes and parental rights, according to defense attorneys.

In June, the state agreed to pay up to $14 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for compensation more than 30000 The defendants were unjustly convicted of the fines and fees they paid to the state in prosecutions based on problematic laboratory tests. The state also spent more than $30 million on other costs associated with the investigation and treatment of the scandal’s damage.

Law’s ruling last week, which ordered that defendants be allowed access to state documents whose names the people named in the Hinton investigation had not been redacted, makes clear that the inspector general’s concerns about the Hinton Pharmaceuticals lab went beyond smoke. The judgment states that “it has become apparent that the Office of the Inspector General has made and/or considered several criminal referrals to the attorney general for other persons at Hinton Pharmaceuticals.”

In June 2015, the Office of the Inspector General referred one order to the Office of the Prosecutor for a possible prosecution “based on test results from an independent out-of-state laboratory, which were inconsistent with Hinton Pharmaceutical Laboratory’s findings, suggesting that criminal acts may have been committed by someone else in the Hinton’s Laboratory,” Lu wrote.

Also, there were other cases where other people in the lab knew or should have known that certain substances were not considered controlled substances under Massachusetts law but caused Certificates of Analysis to be issued stating that the substances were illegal, resulting in the defendants being wrongfully convicted. ,” he wrote.

Lu did not reveal the identities of these people in his judgment, and many records are still hidden. Law’s order prevented all parties to cases from sharing details of state investigation documents that had not been recently certified.

In 2014, the inspector general said in a report that Dukhan was the “single bad actor” in the Hinton crime lab, and the inspector general’s office has confirmed this numerous times since then, even as defense attorneys and judges raised questions about the $6 million scope of its investigation. the general inspector.

State Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democratic nominee for governor, declined to comment when asked what action — if any — the attorney general’s office would take once it received a 2015 referral.

A spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General declined to comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

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