Massachusetts’ high court dismissed more tainted drug cases by former Amherst chemist

Crime

Massachusetts’ highest court has ordered the dismissal of more drug cases potentially tainted by a former chemist who authorities say was high almost every day for the eight years she worked at a state drug lab.

The Supreme Judicial Court said Thursday the state must dismiss the cases of all people whose convictions were based on evidence at the Amherst lab between Jan. 1, 2009 and when the lab closed on Jan. 18, 2013.

Thousands of cases that relied on analyses performed by Sonja Farak have already been dismissed.

The new order applies to cases based on evidence tested by other chemists while Farak worked at the lab. It wasn’t immediately clear how many additional cases would be dismissed.

Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the lab.

Statement from Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan: 

Today’s Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court opinion hopefully represents the final chapter in a sad tale of a rogue chemist, a substandard Department of Public Health drug lab, and prosecutorial misconduct by two former Assistant Attorneys General.  It reflects a decades-long attitude that drug testing for criminal cases could be done on the cheap. 
 
In many ways, what is predictable is preventable.  Regular drug testing of Sonja Farak would have detected her addiction and prevented the wholesale dismissal of thousands of drug cases. The fact that no drug lab employee had pre-employment or post-employment drug testing was inexcusable. 
 
The silver lining in this whole scandal is the SJC’s recognition that the District Attorneys and their offices acted properly. The SJC opined:
 
“We discern no fault, however, in any actions of the district attorneys and their offices.  The district attorneys properly turned over the evidence they received to defendants whose convictions were called into question by Farak’s misconduct, and engaged in time-consuming work promptly to identify and notify individuals whose cases were affected by Farak’s misconduct.”
 
In accordance with the SJC’s decision, we will continue to work on identifying the affected drug cases to ensure they are dismissed in the best interests of justice.

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