A chemist for the state of Massachusetts, Annie Dookhan, pleaded guilty on Friday to falsifying tens of thousands of drug arrest investigations. WBUR has collected its stories on Dookhan into a website called Bad Chemistry, an investigation which they say calls into doubt 40,323 cases she was personally involved in and 190,000 cases the lab worked on. The lab is now closed.
Gee, ya think there will be legal repercussions here?
“The ripple effects of the potentially bogus testing are staggering for the criminal justice system and for the defendants. As authorities review the cases involved, they’re also considering cases where defendants received stiffer sentences because of previous offenses. Or cases where defendants risked or lost jobs, public housing, custody of their children, or deportation.
“District attorneys have set up ‘war rooms’ in their offices just so staffers can research and match the cases in which Dookhan tested the drug evidence. They’ve hired retired judges to preside over to review each case and decide whether to release those incarcerated and/or hold new trials.”
Research shows that the problem reaches far beyond a few states. According to a study published last year in Criminal Justice Ethics, the American system by and large perverts the incentives of the people working in it, such that everyone, from police, to prosecutors, and, apparently, even the lab scientists, are more motivated to get a guilty verdict rather than to ascertain real guilt or innocence.
This is a short ways from a story I’ve covered before: civil forfeiture, in which police legally steal money from people under the argument that anyone carrying that much cash must be involved with drugs. That’s not from a conviction by jury, but simply by seizing assets in a traffic stop or at an arrest. Nationally, several police departments and prosecutors’ offices brag about cars and boats they got this way. But it’s not just civil forfeiture on steroids and it’s not just Massachusetts; only eight states have laws that bar the use of forfeiture proceeds for the benefit of the seizing police department, and of the other 42 states, 16 give at least 50 percent of seized assets to law enforcement, and in 26 states, it is 100 percent. By creating a system which rewards its police for seizing property and that funds state crime labs by convictions, is it really such a wonder that someone like Annie Dookhan would do what she did to ensure that her lab got as many convictions as possible? (The Silicon Graybeard)
And how about all the civil litigation against The State resulting from this public malfeasance?
A close friend is always harping about the cronyism resulting from the privatization of prisons in our State. The essence being we need government to keep everything on the up-and-up.
One of the periodicals mentioned in the above article is Criminal Justice Ethics.
Doesn’t anyone take an oath and honor it, anymore?