After years of legal action by the ACLU of Massachusetts and others, millions of dollars paid by thousands of wrongfully convicted “Dookhan” and “Farak” defendants will be reimbursed to them.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) heard arguments in two cases about whether people impacted by former state chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak are entitled to be reimbursed for money they paid due to their wrongful convictions. Under a U.S. Supreme Court case decided in 2017, these defendants are entitled to the return of fines and fees they paid as a consequence of their now-overturned convictions. In fact, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office agreed that the defendants are owed their money back, and that there should be a “global remedy” for returning it to them.
This ACLU victory comes after years of litigation in the wake of two historic drug lab scandals. According to court papers filed with the SJC, our legal action – and the hard work of our partners at the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and the law firm Fick & Marx LLP – has resulted in the dismissal of 36,694 drug charges against Dookhan defendants, and may result in the dismissal of over 10,000 drug charges against Farak defendants. That’s tens of thousands of tainted convictions and impacted lives.
We in Massachusetts have an opportunity and obligation to fix the criminal legal system – and the reimbursed fines and fees will be an important step toward restoring the integrity of the system. Still, we’ll continue fighting for additional dismissals and for standing orders that would improve how Massachusetts handles wrongful convictions and prosecutorial misconduct.