April 5, 2018 / 10:44 PM / 6 months ago

Thousands of Massachusetts cases tied to drug chemist get dismissed

BOSTON (Reuters) - A justice on Massachusetts’ top court on Thursday ordered the dismissal of 7,690 drug cases because of their link to a former forensic chemist who authorities said for eight years stole drug evidence and worked in a state lab under the influence.

FILE PHOTO: Sonja Farak, 35, is pictured in this Massachusetts State Police booking photo taken January 19, 2013. Courtesy Massachusetts State Police/Handout via REUTERS

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank Gaziano issued an order dismissing thousands of convictions tainted by Sonja Farak, a chemist at the Massachusetts State Crime Laboratory in Amherst who pleaded guilty in 2014.

The dismissal came after various district attorneys’ offices in November notified the top court in Massachusetts that an estimated 6,000 drug cases were subject to dismissal because of their connection to Farak.

“Today is a victory for justice and fairness,” Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

The dismissals came after prosecutors in April agreed to dismiss around 21,000 criminal drug cases because of a scandal involving a different state chemist, Annie Dookhan, who admitted faking tests.

Farak, a chemist at the Massachusetts State Crime Laboratory in Amherst, was arrested in 2013. She later pleaded guilty to stealing drugs from the lab and was sentenced in 2014 to serve 18 months in prison.

Thursday’s order came after the American Civil Liberties Union and Massachusetts’ public defender agency in September asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to toss any cases tied to Farak.

The ACLU have since then asked the court to dismiss not just cases directly linked to Farak but all drug convictions arising from the Amherst lab during her tenure. The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case in May.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Sandra Maler

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