Prosecutors all over Massachusetts will reportedly throw out more than 8,000 drug-related convictions after a lab chemist admitted to using the drugs she was entrusted to test.
The Washington Post reported that the cases are connected to lab chemist Sonja Farak, who admitted to using and testing drugs seized by police for eight years.
Documents obtained by MassLive.com revealed that Farak was arrested in 2013 when she was caught stealing samples from the Amherst drug lab to fuel her own addiction. She ultimately pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and drug charges.
Earlier reports indicated that district attorneys would dismiss 6,000 cases. However, that figure didn’t account for every county in Massachusetts. New court documents place the number closer to 8,000, the publication noted.
Though district attorneys intend to salvage a small number of convictions through retesting or introducing other evidence, The Post reported that state public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are seeking a blanket dismissal to discourage this type of prosecutorial misconduct from occurring again.
This is the second lab scandal that has plagued Massachusetts’ criminal justice system this year. Chemist Annie Dookhan admitted to falsifying, contaminating, and failing to conduct tests during the eight years she worked at her Boston-based lab. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ordered an inquiry, leading seven prosecutors to drop more than 20,000 cases in June, according to the Boston Globe.
Similar to Dookhan’s case, the courts recently ruled that prosecutors can decide which cases they intend to dismiss and which to re-litigate.
Additionally, the ACLU and state public defenders have urged the SJC to hand down sanctions to two assistant attorneys general, Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster. Kaczmarek and Foster are accused of withholding evidence proving that Farak was smoking and cooking drugs in the Amherst lab.
The pair is also accused of not providing prosecutors and defense attorneys with Farak’s notes–which would’ve revealed that the chemist had been undergoing drug treatment for years. The Post wrote that the SJC ordered an investigation, which uncovered that Farak had been using the lab’s drugs since the day she started in August 2004 until her arrest in 2013.
Meanwhile, state attorneys have advised against issuing any sanctions.
[Featured Image: Sonja Farak/Massachusetts State Police]