Documents released today about the drug scandal at the Amherst Lab show stunning misconduct by chemist Sonja Farak that lasted approximately eight years, affecting thousands of cases. The magnitude of the Amherst Lab misconduct rivals the similar scandal at the Hinton Lab, involving disgraced chemist Annie Dookhan, and the twin Massachusetts scandals have no known parallel elsewhere in the country.
The following statement may be attributed to Matthew R. Segal, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts:
"The documents made public today in the Amherst Lab scandal write a new and stunning chapter in the failure of the war on drugs in Massachusetts. There is only one sensible response to these revelations: promptly notify the people who were denied due process, undo their wrongful convictions, and rethink the unjust war on drugs.
"The documents suggest that misconduct at the Amherst Lab, involving chemist Sonja Farak, lasted approximately eight years. Countless people were wrongfully convicted due to this misconduct, in addition to the thousands of people who were wrongfully convicted in the still-unresolved Hinton Lab scandal. Prosecutors opted for a case-by-case response to the Hinton Lab scandal, and the result has been that the cases involved in that scandal still haven’t been identified, let alone resolved. Opting for a case-by-case approach to the Amherst Lab scandal would repeat that mistake.
"These scandals, and the years it has taken to uncover them, demand a remedy for the thousands of criminal defendants who were convicted based on false and tainted evidence. Prosecutors should acknowledge and carry out their duty to notify these victims right away. And prosecutors should agree that most of these convictions should be vacated and dismissed, rather than re-prosecuted. After all, most of the victims of these scandals have already served their sentences.
"It's also time to ask how many wrongful convictions it will take before Massachusetts changes course in the war on drugs. Fighting that war has been effective only in undermining the integrity of our justice system. Dismissing cases and rethinking the war on drugs would protect the public and our system of justice. And these steps are long overdue."
For documents from the case, Commonwealth v. Cotto, go to: