Police Lab Fraud Could Overturn 40,000 Convictions: Thousands Sent to Prison Falsely

Annie Dookhan, a chemist for the Massachusetts  police laboratories has been convicted of  27 counts of evidence tampering and falsifying reports, for which she was sentenced to three to five years in prison.  Her fraud was so numerous that it throws 40,000 convictions into doubt.  The courts in Massachusetts could become a massive assembly line as every one of those 40,000 convictions are thrown into doubt.

Dookhan was very sought after by police and prosecutors because she  had such a fast turn around rate at always seemed to find the evidence to send the suspects away.  The problem was that her “evidence’ was based sometimes entirely on fiction.  There were tests that were never done but came with completed reports favorable to the DA, falsified signatures, cut corners, tampered with evidence, and inflated her credentials.

Dookhan’s lawyer had asked for a reduced sentence, since Dookhan is the main caregiver for her disabled seven-year old son.  As it is, her sentence seems ridiculously light considering innocent defendants could have been sentenced to serve hundreds of years in prison and the tens of millions it will cost the state as a result of up to 40,000 appeals.

Charles Pierce, a writer for Esquire wrote:

“The one thing we cannot have in our ridiculous ongoing modern prohibitionist  state is a criminal justice system that punishes the criminals in law  enforcement as harshly as it punishes those at whom the laws are aimed, and on  whom the law principally falls.”

Rep. Bradley Jones Jr., a Republican, was one of the detractors who felt the sentence was not sufficient:

“You walk away feeling this is really inadequate to what has happened, and the  ramifications that it has had, and is going to have, on the criminal justice  system.  Three to five years is not adequate.”

The state has already spent 8 million dollars trying to find those victims who should be released.  So far they have released some 600 prisoners and they have only scratched the surface.  And possibly worse is that guilty defendants will be released in rather large numbers, simply because the testing opens up doubts in every case she handled.

Justice Carol Ball, the presiding judge who sentenced Dookhan, described her as “a tragic, broken person who has been undone by her own ambition.”

“Innocent persons were incarcerated.  Guilty persons have been  released to further endanger the public, millions and millions of public dollars  are being expended to deal with the chaos Ms. Dookhan created, and the integrity  of the criminal justice system has been shaken to the core.”

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