A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the evidence against a man arrested in the South End on crack-distribution charges was so overwhelming that it didn't matter that disgraced state chemist Annie Dookhan had tested some of the drugs - in the first federal case involving her propensity for making stuff up.
Larry Wilkins had pleaded guilty to federal drug-distribution charges after he and an acquaintance were nabbed at the Silver Line stop at Washington and E. Berkeley streets on April 23, 2011 by Boston detectives trying to reduce the number of drug dealers around the Pine Street Inn. A judge sentenced him to 8 1/2 years in federal prison.
On learning of Dookhan's actions, Wilkins filed to have his sentence vacated, saying he wouldn't have pleaded guilty if he had known she was just making stuff up.
Not so fast there, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston ruled. Applying a similar standard as the state appeals courts in similar Dookhan cases, the federal court said what it called Dookhan's "skullduggery" was not enough to derail the case against Wilkins, because the other evidence against him was so overwhelming.
According to a police affidavit, Wilkins had so much crack on him that when officers opened the back of the prisoner transport wagon at the police station, they found packets of the stuff all over the back of the van - and one packet stuck to the sole of his right shoe.
Plus, the court continued, a subsequent test of the material from Wilkins's arrest that Dookhan never touched showed that it was, in fact, crack cocaine.
To prevail, he must convince us that there is a reasonable probability that, considering the totality of the circumstances, he would not have pleaded guilty had he known of Dookhan's transgressions. ... Given the overwhelming evidence of the petitioner's guilt and the fact that the Dookhan scandal, though sensational, does not provide him a viable defense, the petitioner manifestly failed to cross this threshold. Thus, he is not entitled to any relief.