The Boston Globe editorial board is calling upon court and law enforcement officials to develop a comprehensive plan to swiftly secure justice for thousands of defendants whose cases were corrupted in the state's two drug lab scandals.
"The toll of Dookhan’s misconduct is especially severe: from 2003 — 2012, her work accounted for more than 24,000 cases in which defendants were convicted or faced other adverse dispositions, according to data from prosecutors released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Yet most of the defendants have not gotten any official notice that Dookhan worked on their case, the ACLU notes. Although most, if not all, defendants have served their sentences and are back in the community, many face the consequences of having a drug conviction on their record: they may have difficulty finding a job or housing, or even be deported. And a case-by-case approach could cost millions in additional funding for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency. ...
"One potential solution was proposed two years ago by the ACLU and pro bono counsel for petitioners — and should get serious consideration now. District attorneys could work with the court system to separate out a group of the most serious offenders for retrial. The records of other tainted convictions not singled out could be wiped clean.
"In a ruling last year, the Supreme Judicial Court seemed to leave the door open to a global remedy in the event of further delays in achieving justice. On Friday, lawyers filed a petition asking Justice Margot Botsford to refer to the whole SJC the question of whether all Dookhan cases should be dismissed or subjected to a court-imposed deadline.
"The Commonwealth’s reputation is at stake. The delays inherent in processing the 24,000 Dookhan cases — and the additional cases generated by Farak’s chronic misconduct — abrogate the cherished principle of due process. A comprehensive remedy is needed to lift the burden of this systemic failure."
Read the full story: Big picture solution needed in drug lab scandals