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DA says 300 to 500 inmates could be freed in drug lab scandal

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley says 300 to 500 people could be released from custody in his jurisdiction because their cases have been tainted by the state drug lab scandal.

“We may be in the position to assent to the release of some pretty dangerous people into the city,” he told reporters this morning.

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Also today, officials said they had arrested Marcus Pixley, a Suffolk drug defendant whose bail was reduced as part of the drug lab fallout and who then missed a court date. A convicted rapist, Pixley appeared to have been among the first of the convicts freed because of the scandal to land in legal trouble again. He was arraigned and held on $2,000 cash bail.

State officials have already warned that 60,000 drug samples, involving 34,000 criminal cases, may have been tainted by chemist Annie Dookhan in the former Department of Public Health drug lab in Jamaica Plain. She allegedly admitted to State Police that she mishandled drug evidence “for about two or three years.”

Officials have said they would move swiftly to free from custody people involved in cases where Dookhan’s alleged misdeeds tainted the evidence against them. Court hearings have already been held, resulting in the release of drug defendants and convicts to the street. The scandal has thrown the state’s justice system into turmoil and, in addition to affecting public safety, is expected to cost millions of dollars.

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Conley spoke this morning outside a special session called at Boston Municipal Court to consider cases possibly tainted by Dookhan.

The special session was expected to address 19 cases. It turned out only five had any connection to Dookhan.

Conley criticized the court for putting together a list of cases for the special session “without any input from the DA’s office.”

“This is not a good day, particularly for this court,” he said. “All of these not related to Dookhan, the court should be embarrassed.”

The Globe reported this morning that district attorneys will ask the state for about $10 million a year so they can hire prosecutors, investigators, and support staff necessary to deal with the thousands of criminal cases that must be reviewed following the state drug lab scandal that has erupted because of alleged mishandling of evidence by Dookhan.

Conley said it would have saved time and money if the court had coordinated with his office before setting up today’s hearings.

Pixley, the man released from custody who missed a court hearing, was ordered held on $2,000 cash bail in Suffolk Superior Court, twice as much as previously set. His attorney, Veronica White, said her client had been in the hospital and was unable to attend his hearing. She also charged that Pixley was being used as a scapegoat by law enforcement to alarm the public about those being released in the drug lab scandal.

As a disheveled Pixley was led out of a courtroom by court officers, he cursed and proclaimed, “I’m not going to plead guilty to something I didn’t do.”

Meanwhile, in another courtroom, Judge Carol Ball dismissed drug charges against Jeffrey Solomon, also known as Joseph Banks, because Annie Dookhan allegedly doctored samples in his case.

Dookhan’s actions in Solomon’s case for the basis of one of the obstruction of justice charges against her. She is also facing a second obstruction of justice charge and a charge of lying about her academic record.

Solomon showed no obvious emotion when Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Nicole Cordiero said prosecutors were ending their case.

Solomon is serving a state prison sentence in an unrelated case in Middlesex County.

Defense attorney Victoria Kelleher asked the judge to preserve the evidence in the case because, she alleged, a police officer committed perjury before the grand jury that indicted Solomon.

Ball said she had no authority to issue an order in a case that has been dismissed. She told Kelleher that she should consider filing a civil lawsuit.

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