Annie Dookhan, a former drug lab chemist in Boston, admitted to tampering with evidence in what appeared to be a bid to impress her superiors. While Dookhan’s motives are not fully understood, her falsifying lab findings has led to the overturning of over 21,000 drug-related convictions.
Back in January, the Massachusetts Superior Court ordered a review of all cases Dookhan worked on and retroactively overturned the staggering number. While prosecutors clamored to keep the rulings in place, the work of civil rights groups and defense attorneys in demanding justice made it so that only a relative handful of cases will be retried while dropping the rest.
Joining Roland Martin on NewsOne Now for a discussion on the Dookhan case was Carl Williams, staff attorney for the ACLU, one of the groups fighting for the overturned convictions. Mr. Williams explained that over 60 percent of the convicted persons were drug users themselves and concluded in his own view that Dookhan was motivated by to convict which has been a hallmark of the so-called War on Drugs.
After acknowledging that this might be the largest overturning of drug convictions in U.S. history, Williams explained the fight his group and others had with district attorneys in Massachusetts.
“The district attorneys fought us at every step of this. Five years ago, we [the ACLU of Massachusetts] made a statement saying ‘You need to dismiss these cases’ [and] that didn’t happen,” said Williams.
Williams added, “Two years after that, we filed suit in the Supreme Judicial Court, our state Supreme Court and we filed since then hundreds of papers. The DAs from all over eastern Massachusetts filed in response saying ‘No, we can’t dismiss these cases. We need to keep these convictions.'”
On the surface, it appears that the state wished to hold its record against drug offenders intact despite Dookhan’s admittance and also the fact some defendants felt a need to plead guilty as they too were operating from a place of honoring the evidence.