Over 11,000 Drug Convictions Vacated by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has dismissed over 11,000 drug-related charges.
All of the chargers were dismissed due to evidence crossing paths with disgraced state chemist Sonja Farak, who was arrested in 2013 for stealing cocaine. Farak later admitted to spending nearly a decade stealing cocaine and other drugs that were meant as evidence. Farak also admitted to testing seized drugs (all being used as evidence in criminal cases) while under the influence of various drugs including LSD, MDMA, methamphetamine, amphetamine, phentermine and ketamine, among others.
“As an initial matter, the respondents — the attorney general and the offices of the Massachusetts district attorneys — have agreed to vacate certain convictions obtained using drug certificates signed by Sonja Farak,” wrote Justice Frank Gaziano in an April 5 declaratory judgment.
“After living with the collateral consequences of their unfair convictions, thousands of people in Massachusetts finally have the opportunity to clear their records,” says Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Today is a victory for justice and fairness – and an important step toward restoring the integrity of the criminal justice system and addressing the criminalization of substance abuse.”
As part of a court order the district attorney offices put forth a list of 7,690 cases to be dismissed; this amounts to over 11,162 total dismissals, when accounting for cases with multiple defendants.
“Today, the burden of an unjust criminal conviction has been lifted off the shoulders of thousands of people, people who can now apply for jobs and housing and move forward with their lives,” CPCS staff attorney Rebecca Jacobstein said in a statement. “While we are pleased for those who have finally, after five years of litigation, obtained the relief they are entitled to, we continue to fight for those still seeking justice. We have asked the court to dismiss the remaining cases where Farak signed the drug certificate of analysis. In addition, we have asked the court to dismiss all Amherst Lab cases during Farak’s tenure, because her misconduct was not limited to cases where she signed the drug certificate of analysis, but impacted all cases at the Amherst Lab.”
Farak was released from prison in 2015 after spending 18-months behind bars.
Last year more than 21,000 drug convictions were overturned based on their connection to Annie Dookhan, a disgraced Hinton State Laboratory chemist who went to prison after admitting to tampering with the results of about one in six of the criminal drug cases tried in Massachusetts between 2003 and 2012.