MA State Crime Lab Scandal and Implications for Defendants and Convicts

In what is the latest development of the controversy with the state crime lab, on Monday Governor Patrick accepted the resignation of John Auerbach, The Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner.  The story began to receive attention in late August when the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston was shut down after it was revealed that a chemist working in the laboratory had failed to follow testing protocols.

Prosecutors are estimating that the chemist is alleged to have handled nearly 60,000 samples and affecting over 30,000 drug cases.  As reported by the Boston Globe, several statistics are quite alarming when read and raise questions as to why this chemist was not looked into before this year.  For example, the chemist allegedly performed more tests on drug samples than any other chemist at the laboratory for seven straight years.  Further, in 2005 the chemist nearly doubled the next closest chemist in regards to samples tested.  It is likely that state employees working on this case for the foreseeable future will wish that questions were asked earlier.  Another alarming statistic reported by the globe was that a supervisor for the lab discovered the chemist was tampering with evidence in June of 2011 and did not report this information until eight months later.

Implications for Criminal Defendants

One direct example of how this may impact convicted offenders is that the chemist is accused of tampering with the weight of the samples and the weight of the narcotics is often a primary factor in the length of sentencing.  Another example that has serious consequences is for immigrants who were convicted of a crime involving drugs and then deported back to their home country.

This has the potential to impact the judicial system in several ways.  First, the courts already have the reputation of being overcrowded and the possibility that 34,000 cases were handled by this chemist is certainly going to result in a large volume of appeals.  Second, there is a high likelihood that there are individuals who are currently incarcerated and did not receive a fair shot at justice.  Third, state resources that would regularly be used to bring justice on behalf of families affected by serious crimes such as rape or manslaughter will now have to be used to sift through thousands of cases and determine if this chemist had any impact on the case.

If you would like more information please contact Wassem M. Amin at wassem@dharlawllp.com or (617)880-6155.
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