A misconduct by a state drug lab chemist in Massachusetts led to the dismissal of more than 20,000 drug cases recently. Ironically, most of the accused have already served their sentences as the exoneration came quite late, in April 2017. This is seen as the largest dismissal of criminal cases in the American history as many rejoice the decision.
In fact, several people, including lawyers, family members and convicts were pressing for scrapping these cases fudged by tainted chemist Annie Dookhan during her stint between 2003 and 2012. Investigators accused her of falsifying results, contaminating drug samples and distorting evidence.
Many people are relieved to hear of the dismissal of the cases because they felt that many people were falsely implicated and charged. Many pro bono lawyers also welcomed the decision of dismissing the cases that lacked evidence. “We’re thrilled to say today that it looks like 95 percent of those tainted drug convictions will be dismissed,” said Carl Williams, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
In 2013, Dookhan was convicted and sentenced three to five years of imprisonment. She was released in 2016. Termed as a superwoman by her colleagues as she was “lightning fast” in her work, Dookhan was completely a derelict in discharging her responsibilities. She mishandled drug samples, forged signatures and returned positive results when she did not bother to conduct the tests. Her manhandling of the samples resulted in a complete chaos as it left prosecutors perplexed in deciding which of the cases were genuine and which were not.
The dismissal of the cases were unprecedented and is likely to change lives of thousands of people. Those reeling under unfair pronouncements due to tweaked samples and test results will receive a big relief now. All these people, falsely tarnished by convictions, can now clear their names and move on with life.
People lament that the damage has been done as the earlier ruling had sent thousands of them to an abysmal state. They suffered through job loss, tarnished reputation, housing loss, deportation and unemployment due to bad name. In her own admission, Annie used to change the samples from negative to positive by contaminating them and resorted to “dry labbing”, which means providing the same result for a multiple of samples without actually testing them. It was in November 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, sentenced and released last year.
Addiction is a scourge in every aspect and conviction in a criminal drug case gives a different turn to the entire life. It takes a lot of effort to bring life back on the track. Apart from losing self-respect, a drug convict also finds it difficult to realign himself or herself, let alone the health hazards.
Drug addiction is one of the major public health concerns in the United States with thousands of people falling prey to it. Addiction uproots a person completely, especially when it becomes chronic, but it is also possible to reverse the effects by seeking treatment at the right juncture.
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