The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts called on a justice with the state’s highest court Thursday to effectively vacate all of the 40,000-plus criminal cases tied to Annie Dookhan, the disgraced former drug analyst, saying the state has failed to coordinate a proper response to the worst scandal to hit the criminal justice system in recent times.
In a pointedly worded petition, the group asked the Supreme Judicial Court justice to invoke the court’s authority to address what it called the state’s failure to develop a systematic response to the scandal after Dookhan’s misconduct at the state laboratory in Jamaica Plain was discovered in June 2011.
The petition asks the justice assigned to the case to vacate all of the drug cases and convictions of 40,000-plus defendants and to order prosecutors to determine within 90 days whether they want to pursue individual cases. If so, the prosecutors would have six months to resolve the cases with a trial or a guilty plea.
The petition, crafted along with the ACLU’s national office and Boston-based law firm Foley Hoag, also asks the justice to prohibit prosecutors from seeking tougher penalties against people who have already been convicted and have been sentenced yet want a review of their cases. It says the risk of tougher punishment has intimidated defendants from filing legitimate challenges to their convictions.
The civil liberties group called that an interference with their constitutional right to a fair trial.
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