BOSTON (CN) - Evidence from 1-in-6 drug cases tried in Massachusetts over a 10-year span may have been tampered with by disgraced state drug lab employee Annie Dookhan, a court filing by state prosecutors revealed.
The findings came on the heels of a report from the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office which found the state potentially faces a second laboratory scandal involving the activities of chemist Sonja Farak in state drug lab in Amherst.
The state shut down its Hinton Drug Lab, located in Boston, in 2012 amid concerns that a lab employee had been producing positive testing results without ever properly testing the drugs, which were then used by state prosecutors to obtain drug charge convictions.
It was later revealed that the rogue employee, Annie Dookhan, had doctored evidence tests in upward to 34,000 cases from 2003 to 2012.
Of those cases, 24,481 ended in convictions or other "adverse dispositions," according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which has been handling appeals for those convicted as a result of the tainted tests.
The ACLU says vast majority of the defendants in these 24,000 cases have not received any official notice that Dookhan worked on their case.
The list of affected cases was released on May 11 as part of the ongoing Supreme Judicial Court case filed by inmates who want to see their drug crime-related sentences reduced in light of Dookhan's misdeeds.
"It has taken five years and a lawsuit just to get a list of Dookhan's cases, and that list exposes the war on drugs in Massachusetts as a massive house of cards," said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a written statement.
"The misconduct during the Dookhan-Farak era is of course shocking, but the broader issue is the spectacular failure of the war on drugs in Massachusetts," Segal said. "Over the last decade, Massachusetts has convicted thousands and thousands of people of drug crimes based on tainted evidence. Those people deserve justice, and the Commonwealth needs to address its own addiction an addiction to addressing the problem of drug use through prosecution instead of treatment."
Dan Marx, of Boston's Foley Hoag law firm, which is working with the ACLU on the cases, said that Dookhan's wrongdoing was so pervasive there is no easy solution to remedy the damage done.
"This new information and the latest drug lab scandal in Massachusetts show that a case-by-case approach to this massive problem cannot serve the cause of justice or restore the integrity of our criminal justice system," Marx said. "We need a comprehensive solution."
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