NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 13, 2012

ACLU: Release non-violent inmates tied to state lab crisis

(Continued)

A spokesman for Conley said the argument shows a “fundamental misunderstanding of what’s going on in our courtrooms.” Spokesman Jake Wark said prosecutors are proceeding case-by-case, in many instances assenting to the release or reversal of convictions that were based on evidence now believed to be compromised. “The alternative would be to ignore the facts of every case and we’re not going to do that,” Wark said.

Asked about the letter, Conley said, “We’re not going to take instruction, albeit perhaps good intentioned, from the American Civil Liberties Union on that issue.”

County prosecutors have estimated that the handling of the tainted drug lab cases could cost their offices as much as $50 million, and the ACLU said it will cost at least as much for defense attorneys, including public defenders.

Officials have said Dookhan handled samples in more than 34,000 cases during her career at the Hinton Laboratory in Jamaica Plain, including 1,140 cases for defendants currently incarcerated in state prisons, jails or houses of correction.

Conley made a point during the press conference with Menino that the lab under investigation was run by the state Department of Public Health, and not Boston or state police. He called the situation at the Jamaica Plain lab an “utter disgrace” while assuring the public that the forensic analyses being done at the BPD headquarters laboratory were “impeccable science.”

According to police reports, Dookhan has admitted to investigators to altering drug samples to produce false test results, and has so far been charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of falsely pretending to hold a university degree. Dozens of defendants have been released or had bails reduced as a result of the scandal.

Segal said that in addition to releasing those currently serving sentences, prosecutors should begin the process of wiping clean the records of former felons convicted based on evidence or testimony provided by Dookhan.

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