Prosecutors likely to toss thousands of tainted drug cases

In this Nov. 22, 2013 file photo, former state chemist Annie Dookhan sits in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. (David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool, File)

BOSTON (AP) — District attorneys in Massachusetts are moving for the dismissal of thousands of drug cases tainted by the misconduct of a former state drug lab chemist.

The state’s highest court ordered the prosecutors to produce lists by the end of day Tuesday indicating how many of the approximately 24,000 affected cases they would not or could not prosecute if new trials were ordered. Those cases would be dismissed.

Annie Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to charges of tampering with evidence and falsifying thousands of tests in criminal drug cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts estimates about 20,000 cases will be thrown out, which the group says would make it the single largest mass dismissal of criminal convictions in U.S. history.

Dookhan served three years in prison.

In a statement Tuesday, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said his office alone plans to ask the court to dismiss more than 1,500 cases.

“Today we are complying with the Bridgeman ruling issued by the Supreme Judicial Court in January. Consistent with the court’s order, we are filing a list moving for dismissal on every district court charge that fits the criteria identified by the court. We are also moving for dismissal in superior court cases where the evidence no longer exists and, consistent with the court criteria, where we could not maintain a prosecution. In total, we will ask the court to dismiss in excess of 1,500 cases, comprising more than 2,300 individual charges. We already, during the last several years, disposed of a number of Dookhan cases in the district and superior court. During that time, we dealt with more than 100 defendants and I personally helped dispose of a number of these cases prior to becoming district attorney. We have worked hard to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of the system and protecting public safety in many of these cases. To that end, we are certifying that, consistent with the court’s order, we have independent evidence in 112 cases and will seek to maintain those convictions. The actions of Annie Dookhan have imperiled the prosecution of thousands of drug cases throughout the commonwealth, including in some cases, defendants who presented a danger to the community. By resolving these cases, hopefully we can move past this sad chapter involving Ms. Dookhan’s egregious misconduct while working at the drug lab.”