A federal judge recently awarded a $2.1 million verdict to a man who spent nearly 16 months in jail after disgraced state chemist Annie Dookhan testified the substance police found on him was cocaine.
Dookhan never appeared in federal court to contest Leonardo Johnson's suit. Johnson, 53, was arrested in 2008 on a charge of distribution of cocaine in a school zone, convicted after a trial at which Dookhan testified she had tested the substance and found it to be cocaine, and sentenced to two years in the Suffolk County House of Correction.
That's about the same length of sentence Dookhan got for falsifying thousands of test results at the state lab in Jamaica Plain.
"The substance which served as the basis for this sentence was not, in fact, cocaine, but Defendant Dookhan - a chemist at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory - falsely certified and testified otherwise," US District Court Judge Indira Talwani wrote in an order setting out the amount of the verdict. Talwani based her decision in large part on Johnson's affidavit, in which he detailed the travails he suffered in jail - from rodent droppings in food to fights with cellmates - and the difficulties he has faced since getting work and a place to live:
Plaintiff credibly describes his anger, frustration, helplessness, and despair at being falsely accused, falsely convicted, and falsely imprisoned. He tells of threats to his person, stints in solitary confinement, fights, deprivations of dignity, and disconnection from family and friends.
Plaintiff further avers that his false conviction contributed to post-incarceration difficulties, including unemployment and homelessness.
Based on this record, judgment will be entered in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant Dookhan.