There have been multiple reports, and in fact even indictments of several employees of drug processing crime labs in Massachusetts in recent months. Additionally, two crime labs used by the state to process drug samples have been closed down until the allegations regarding the mishandling of evidence have been thoroughly investigated.
In one of the cases under investigation, Sonja Farak, was charged with tampering with drug evidence, where she in some cases allegedly removed small amounts of heroin and cocaine from test samples for personal use, and then replaced the drugs with other substances. Officials maintain that she removed the drugs from already tested samples, which would in theory therefore not affect the outcomes of the tests, or the cases for which they were conducted. She handled drug evidence at the Amherst Drug Laboratory on the University of Massachusetts campus, which has been closed pending an investigation by the State.
Annie Dookhan, 34, was indicted following her September arrest for charges of falsifying drug evidence in thousands of cases. According to investigators, her mishandling or falsification of evidence may have affected some 10,000 people convicted or accused of crimes based on evidence that she processed at the Hinton lab in Jamaica Plain where she worked. State officials said that hundreds of people had been released from prison pending new trials.
Additionally unsettling, is the fact that according to sources, the Hinton lab was not accredited, unlike the Boston police crime lab, and other labs countrywide. It remains unclear why unaccredited labs would be used by the state for criminal cases, whereby the outcomes could determine whether individuals lose their liberty.
Dookhan faces at least 27 criminal charges related to her alleged mishandling or falsification of drug evidence as part of a massive review of cases in which she served as the analyst.
Officials uncovered startling findings at the Hinton lab in the course of the investigation to determine whether the lab’s practices extended beyond Dookhan. The lab was closed by State Police in August, and has been untouched since then. According to initial reports, the findings include things such as a plastic bag containing “a white rock substance” and test tubes “containing unknown substances” located in one supervisor’s office, random unmarked pills taped to a lab bench cabinet, old samples, including marijuana marked as submitted in 1996, and other various jars and test tubes containing unlabeled substances.
If you were convicted of a crime involving drugs, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to find out whether your case may have been affected by the shoddy practices observed at these labs. For example, one of the elements for certain drug crimes is that you have to have actually been in possession of a controlled substance. If there is evidence that the substances involved in your case were processed in one of these labs, and therefore the evidence may have been compromised you may have grounds for a new trial. Authorities must be able to prove a chain of custody of the evidence from the time that it was seized until the time it is processed and then used at trial. Substances being found outside of locked evidence rooms or safes breaks that chain of custody.
If you have been charged with a Massachusetts drug crime, put your trust in a reputable and experienced drug crimes lawyer. Contact Attorney Patrick J. Murphy today for a free and confidential telephone consultation at 617-367-0450. You can also contact us through our website. Our office is reachable any time, day or night, to assist you with your case.
More Blog Posts:
Major Crime Down for First Quarter in Boston, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published March 27, 2013
Authorities Uncover Extensive Identity Theft Operation, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published March 19, 2013