Thanks, Annie: Prosecutors move to dismiss 21,587 drug convictions

Associated Press reports the state's district attorneys will move to dismiss the cases because disgraced, convicted state chemist Annie Dookhan was involved in testing the alleged drugs in the cases.

The ACLU says this will be the largest mass dismissal of cases in US history.

The Dig reminds us the state is still processing cases related to a second chemist-gone-bad, Sonja Farak, out in Amherst.

The bulk of the Dookhan convictions - 15,570 - are in Suffolk County, where the District Attorney's office reports it is not filing for dismissal of cases involving 117 defendants. In a statement, DA Dan Conley said:

The 117 defendants identified in these cases account for more than 1,700 convictions for violent crimes or weapons violations, and have amassed more than 2,800 convictions in total.

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      Great Day To Release This News

      Vacation week, midweek, Pats at White House, Both winter teams circling the drain, and our glorious tight end getting D'Angelo Barksdaled up in Shirtucky.

      Perfect timing, almost out of the Kevin White playbook. This might not even make the evening news since all their live trucks will be up at MCI Sousa or broadcasting from Washington.

      Let's hope that these now cleared offenders will be back away soon if they screw up again.

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      Kidding, right?

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      This might not even make the evening news since all their live trucks will be up at MCI Sousa or broadcasting from Washington.

      Kidding, right? It's been all over national news.

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      I'm afraid to ask, but it needs to be asked

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      Some other people should have known or suspected that Dookhan's off-the-charts productivity numbers were due to falsifying results.

      I could imagine people looking the other way, with the best of intentions, except that it's a very unconstitutional choice, and we really can't afford to go down that road.

      What has been done to keep something like this, and other falsifications of evidence by the state, from ever happening here again?

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      And a handslap for Dookhan?

      By on

      For that scale of unconstitutional abuse of the citizenry, she should be looking at life in prison.

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      Nope

      By on

      She was encouraged to do this because

      1. politicians didn't want to budget for the proper workload that the job was supposed to take
      2. bosses didn't want to ask the politicians for money

      Please relocate your ire to the proper causes: her bosses, their bosses, and system that is enamored of the "do more with less" B-school bullshit to the point of supidification.

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      I was just following orders...

      By on

      ...is not a valid defense in this case. Even if she did say whose orders she was following, to falsify evidence.

      And I didn't say she's the only one who needs to be made an example of.

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      No playbook

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      Yesterday was the court-ordered deadline for DAs to submit their lists of dismissals from long ago when the Dookhan case was fresher.

      There was nothing planned about the timing of this news releasing at a peak of other activity just happenstance.

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      Nice try, but ...

      By on

      The news comes because of a deadline set months ago by the SJC. I mean, maybe the court looked at the calendar and specifically picked school-vacation week in Massachusetts, but I'm kind of not buying that. They issued their order on Jan. 17; I suspect the fact that Monday was exactly three months after that is related.

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      It took the state less than

      By on

      It took the state less than two days to draft, pass, and ratify an anti-upskirt law. Meanwhile it took them five years to remedy these tainted convictions? That is not right.

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      Apples and oranges

      By on

      In the upskirting case, the SJC ruled the state's old law on pervy photo taking was unconstitutional. In the Dookhan cases, the SJC and the Mass. Appellate Court ruled it was the evidence used that was tainted; there was no question whether the state's drug laws in general were unconstitutional.

      It's a lot easier to rewrite a single law to pass constitutional muster than to have to go through hundreds, potentially thousands of individual hearings on evidence - because the SJC pretty quickly determined that just because people may have been convicted or pleaded guilty in cases that involved fake Dookhan evidence didn't mean they weren't still guilty (and, in fact, several people lost their appeals after the SJC or the Mass. Appeals Court ruled that other evidence was so strong they still would have been found guilty even without any Dookhan certificates).

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      Hopefully this gives new hope

      By on

      Most of these convictions were probably low-level users. We've seen that the "war on drugs" has been a massive failure of time and money and effort. While Dookhan was short-cutting her responsibilities and the rest of the system was not resilient enough to catch her unforced errors and call it out well before it got this out of hand, my hope is that the vast majority of those released take this as a message and not fall into the same trap again.

      I also wish that we had put a demand on these releases to be given information on staying clean (just because the system screwed up doesn't mean some proportion of them weren't actually drug users) and getting them back to being productive citizens now that they're released (because even if they were falsely imprisoned due to faulty evidence processing and never committed a crime, they've been out of the loop for some amount of time and may need help getting back on their feet again).

      We'll never know who did and didn't do what they were convicted of thanks to Dookhan, but we know where they stand at this point in time and we should do what we can to see them to being whole again with the hope that they either don't go back to bad habits or haven't been crippled by the system falsely screwing up their lives in our name.

      Trying to create a positive effect for those 20k+ people should be our objective.

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      Tens of thousands of wrongful convictions

      By on

      Let's say each wrongful conviction did a million dollars of harm to a person's freedom, their reputation, their economic opportunity, their physical and mental well-being, cascading effects on their family...

      I sure wouldn't go through that for a million dollars. Why should someone else, and they weren't even given a choice.

      "But many of them were probably guilty anyway" is not an American excuse.

      I'm gonna need an hour with Excel. Gotta find another 22 billion in this year's budget.

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      Meddling kids!

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      Nice to see career prosecutors playing the "We would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!" card:

      “These are not wrongful convictions,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the county’s district attorney, Daniel F. Conley. “They are cases that could be appealed on procedural grounds.”

      To a prosecutor, once you're arrested, you're never really innocent, you just got off on a technicality, even if someone faked the positive result of your drug test.

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      That's not what's being said at all

      By on

      If I arrest you for drug possession because I saw you buy from a known drug dealer, you admit to it, the drug dealer is also arrested and rats you out, and we find more evidence of drug use in your car (paraphernalia, etc.), but when we tested the substance in the bag, we violated evidence rules and it becomes inadmissible but was used to help convict you...

      Then, you'll get off on appeal, even though you admitted to it being drugs, because our system allows for you to get away so as to prevent the system from ever being bigger than the law.

      But we all know you're not innocent. You admitted you aren't innocent. There was plenty of other evidence to show you weren't innocent. But we can't allow falsified evidence to have helped put you away even if all other evidence was against you.

      Wark is saying "ignore the bad evidence and only use the good evidence and you'll see most of these were good busts...but we can't ignore the bad evidence, so we have to allow these people to go free". That's a vast difference from "because you're arrested you're guilty, you just got off on a technicality".

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      Here's the problem

      By on

      If you ARE innocent but the evidence was tainted, that tainted evidence WILL be used to force you to "admit" to wrong doing because you will be forced into a plea bargain with it.

      This happens all over our system all the time - shitty evidence is used to compel guilty pleas even if the person isn't guilty, because "it will just be better that way".

      Pleading guilty under duress is NOT the same as BEING guilty.

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      justice system

      ...and with mandatory minimum sentences, suspects have a huge incentive to take the deal rather then risk the ridiculously long prison sentence.

      This dynamic seems to have been a factor in Aaron Swartz suicide.

      DA Conley is fighting very hard to keep that authority as lawmakers debate criminal justice reform.

      If you compare sentences by US justice system (state and federal) to other developed countries, you'll see how comparatively long our jail sentences are.

      If you ARE innocent but the evidence was tainted, that tainted evidence WILL be used to force you to "admit" to wrong doing because you will be forced into a plea bargain with it.

      This happens all over our system all the time - shitty evidence is used to compel guilty pleas even if the person isn't guilty, because "it will just be better that way".

      Pleading guilty under duress is NOT the same as BEING guilty.

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      Reading assignment

      By on

      Use The Google to do some research on the history and application of the presumption of innocence in our legal system.

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      Just like Tom Thumb's blues

      By on

      I finally understand a few of Dylan's lines:

      If you see Saint Annie, please tell her thanks a lot
      I cannot move, my fingers are all in a knot
      I haven't even got the strength to get up and take another shot
      And my best friend, my doctor, won't even say what it is I've got

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      A good start

      Now, how about dismissing *all* drug convictions, past and present? Get the state entirely out of the business of policing this, and save lots of money in the corrections system.

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