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Court: Drug defendants facing new trials thanks to disgraced state chemist can't be charged with more serious offenses the second time around

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that people facing new drug trials because their evidence was handled by convicted state chemist Annie Dookhan cannot be brought up on more severe charges the second time around - and can't get sentences more severe than the ones originally imposed.

The court ruled in cases in Suffolk and Essex counties involving three men who accepted plea deals with prosecutors and who were worried that if they contested their now tossed sentences, they could be subject to the harsher charges and penalties that could come if prosecutors refused to give them the same deals the second time around.

The state's highest court agreed.

In their ruling, the justices noted they don't generally get involved with criminal procedings until after verdicts have been rendered, but said the harm Dookhan did to the justice system was so great, they felt compelled to step in before any of the three came back to trial.

That out of the way, the court continued that while prosecutors may have had no knowledge of what Dookhan was up to, the fact remains she was a government employee and it is unfair to make the defendants bear the added burden that comes from the "government misconduct" she engaged in.

Plus, the court said, plea deals are the equivalent of binding contracts.

That being the case, the Commonwealth cannot simply reprosecute the petitioners as if the plea agreements had never existed, thereby giving the Commonwealth a second bite at the proverbial apple in its efforts to convict the petitioners. Instead, the Commonwealth must be held to the terms of its plea agreements.



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Why always apples? Why not french toast?

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You must have been reading a different version of the Garden of Eden story.

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So, language nerd alert: the only usage note I have on this phrase (from Garner's Modern Legal Usage) suggests its origin isn't biblical, although it doesn't make the origin particularly clear either. The original version is apparently "one bite at the cherry," which was apparently used in America and Britain until about the 1940s, by which time "cherry" had taken on a second, colloquial meaning in the U.S., creating a double entendre that American jurists apparently found embarrassing. It's not clear why apple, specifically, was substituted, or whether it's a reference to the apple in the Garden of Eden or the Apple of Discord or nothing in particular at all; the argument in favor of "cherry" sometimes offered by British lawyers is that a cherry is a fruit you really cannot eat in more than one bite, and that an apple is an illogical substitute because you generally can't eat it without multiple bites. A quick google isn't getting me a more satisfactory explanation of the origin than that, and now I'm really curious.

The basic idea of the phrase is that in law a person (or entity) typically gets a single chance to exercise a right or take advantage of an opportunity the law affords; in most circumstances just call a mulligan and go back and try again with a new argument if you neglected to use that argument the first time around. It's similar to the double jeopardy principle that applies to criminal acquittals - you can't just keep trying over and over till you get the result you want; the judicial process has to have some finality to it in order to be meaningful (and fair to the people involved, especially the ones facing liability in one form or another).

Actually, the more I think about it, the less logical the phrase becomes to me. I suppose substitute bite-sized fruits (grape, blueberry, raspberry) don't have quite the same pithiness? Why not french toast indeed.

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or not...

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