BOSTON (AP) — One at a time, the prison inmates sat down at a wooden table, linked by video conference to a Boston courtroom, where their attorneys and prosecutors explained the role a disgraced chemist played in their criminal cases.
One by one, the judge agreed to let them go free while their legal challenges make their way through the courts, placing their sentences on hold and setting bail.
The fallout from a scandal at a state drug lab played out in court Monday, as Judge Christine McEvoy began hearing what is expected to be nearly 200 legal challenges in Suffolk Superior Court drug cases.
The chemist, Annie Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, has been charged with obstruction of justice and accused of skirting protocols and faking tests results at a former Department of Public Health lab. The Boston lab was closed by state police in August after Dookhan told them she had faked test results, forged paperwork and sometimes mixed samples. She has pleaded not guilty.
The scandal has put thousands of criminal cases in jeopardy. Dookhan tested more than 60,000 samples covering about 34,000 defendants in her nine years at the lab, according to state police.
Some defense attorneys said they believe many of the cases could eventually be dismissed because allegations that Dookhan mishandled samples have made the evidence at the heart of their cases unreliable.
James Greenberg, who represents a 26-year-old convicted of distributing cocaine and now serving a three-year sentence, told the judge, “I don’t know how this case ever gets tried.”
McEvoy set the man’s bail at $1,000 and ordered him to be monitored by GPS and to not leave his home between 10 p.m. and 6 p.m. She ordered him to report back to court on Nov. 15.
“I think a lot of these cases are in trouble, and cases will be dismissed,” Greenberg said after the hearing. He said he believes all drug cases in which Dookhan participated in testing should be thrown out if the defendants do not face other charges.
“We know she’s manipulated drugs, so anything she’s touched is tainted,” he said.
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