The Massachusetts Department of Health Lab in Jamaica Plain (William A. Hinton Drug Laboratory) was ordered shut down by the governor a few weeks ago when it was discovered that at least one of the chemists at the lab allegedly engaged in malfeasance and violation of protocol with drug samples in criminal cases. The drug lab handled several thousand drug samples seized from criminal drug arrests in multiple counties, including Suffolk County, Middlesex County (until 2009), Bristol County, Worcester County and Norfolk County.
By way of background, when the police seized drugs in criminal cases, the drugs were ultimately sent to the DPH drug lab for testing and confirmation that the substance was, in fact, the certain controlled substance it was thought to be. At the lab, each drug sample was analyzed by one chemist, whose results were then checked by another chemist.
As it turns out, one of the supervising chemists is alleged to have engaged in intentional violation of protocol by tampering with evidence bags; altering the weight of drugs; not calibrating the drug testing machines properly; and even altering drug samples so that they would test as drugs when they were not! This particular chemist, who was employed by the DPH drug lab in Jamaica Plain from 2003 to 2012, is believed to have been involved with as many as 60,000 samples and 182,000 criminal drug cases.
Even more disturbing, the analyst under investigation, considered a 'supervisor', had unsupervised access to the drug safe and evidence room, theoretically calling into questioned every single drug case that passed through the Jamaica Plain drug lab, even where she was not directly responsible for the testing of those samples.
Obviously, this discovery creates a very serious problem as defendants who were charge with a Massachusetts Drug Crime were potentially prosecuted with tainted and/or fabricated drug evidence and leading to erroneous convictions and in some cases, deportation from the United States.
Since the governor ordered the lab closed and the matter referred for investigation, prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys are scrambing to determine which cases were affected. Many defense attorneys like myself, have been pulling old files out of storage in an effort to identify all defendants whose cases might have been affected in any way.
So who is affected and what should they do?
Any person who was charged with a Massachusetts Drug Crime whose case resulted in a conviction or plea is potentially affected and they should contact an attorney, particularly any individual who was recently convicted and is currently serving a prison/jail sentence as a result of that drug conviction.
Depending on each defendant's individual circumstances, there are various options that should be considered:
- Defendants convicted of a drug crime should consider a Motion for New Trial, which would essentially vacate the conviction. Where the defendant is currently serving a sentence as a result of a potentially tainted drug conviction, there could also be the possibility that the person is released from custody and otherwise file a Motion to Stay their sentence.
- Defendants who pled guilty to a Massachusetts drug crime should consider a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea.
- Defendants who have received any disposition short of a dismissal or acquittal, for instance, persons who admitted sufficient facts and their case was Continued Without a Finding ("CWOF") and placed on probation, should also consider a Motion to Withdraw their plea.
Though attorneys on all sides of the issues are working to identity whose cases may have been affected, the list is long and time consuming. For this reason, if you believe your Massachusetts drug case may have been impacted by this you should contact an attorney for assistance.
Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis has extensive experience in defendant Massachusetts Drug Crimes and is available 24/7 for a free consultation if you were affected by the DPH Drug Lab Scandal.
Click Here to contact a Massachusetts Drug Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.