Thousands More Cases Up For Dismissal Due To Corrupt Drug Lab Chemist

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Thousands More Cases Up For Dismissal Due To Corrupt Drug Lab Chemist

By Victoria Kim 10/18/18

The ACLU estimates that at least 12,000 cases will be dismissed as a result of Sonja Farak's actions.

Image: 
Sonja Farak
Sonja Farak Photo via YouTube

A disgraced state chemist who admitted to tampering with, stealing and using drug evidence, completed her 18-month prison sentence in 2015. But we’re still seeing the impact of Sonja Farak’s misconduct while testing drug evidence for the state of Massachusetts for over a decade.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled last Thursday (Oct. 11) that more drug-related cases should be dismissed as a result of Farak’s actions. While the exact number of affected cases is to be determined, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts estimated that it could be at least 12,000 or more, according to WBUR.

“We conclude that Farak’s widespread evidence tampering has compromised the integrity of thousands of drug convictions apart from those that the Commonwealth has agreed should be vacated and dismissed,” said Associate Justice Frank Gaziano. “Her misconduct, compounded by prosecutorial misconduct, requires that this court exercise its superintendence authority and vacate and dismiss all criminal convictions tainted by governmental wrongdoing.”

Farak was at the Amherst lab for 11 years. Not only was she stealing drug samples and tampering with evidence, she was under the influence while working.

The SJC already ruled in April that more than 7,500 cases should be dismissed, because Farak had signed off on them. However, the court has now agreed to invalidate every drug sample tested at the Amherst lab where Farak worked—even if she did not sign off on them—as well as the cases related to the drug sample.

In 2013, Sonja Farak was arrested for stealing cocaine from the Amherst lab, which has since closed. She eventually admitted to tampering with drug evidence and making a “daily habit of treating the drug lab’s evidence supply as a personal narcotics buffet” for nearly a decade before her arrest, according to Courthouse News.

New “Farak defendants” whose cases will be affected include “those convicted of methamphetamine offenses while Farak worked at the Amherst lab, and any defendants who had drugs in their cases tested between January 2009 and January 2013—the last four years that Farak was at the lab.

For now, the ACLU and Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) have been tasked with identifying the new Farak defendants and determining how many new cases should be dismissed.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re incredibly pleased to have all this work to do to get people the justice they deserve and be able to move on from this disaster,” said Rebecca Jacobstein, staff attorney for the CPCS.

This is not the first time that thousands of drug-related cases have been dismissed as a result of a state chemist being found guilty of misconduct.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr. Email: victoria.kim@thefix.com.

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