Big News on the Annie Dookhan Scandal
Annie Dookhan was found to have tampered with drug evidence at the Hinton drug lab in Jamaica Plain. She misrepresented her qualifications as a chemist. She tampered with drug samples. She filed false results. Her actions affected approximately 40,000 defendants across the Commonwealth from 2004 – 2011. Recently, Dookhan offered a plea to upwards of two dozen criminal charges and was sentenced to 3 – 5 years imprisonment with probation thereafter.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a ground breaking decision on this issue for those defendants that pled guilty to drug charges based on drug certifications signed by Dookhan either as a primary or a secondary chemist. Prior to this decision, the onus was on the defendant to show that Dookhan acted in his/her case, that her actions, generally and in the defendant’s case, involved misconduct and that Dookhan’ actions were attributable to the Commonwealth (thus warranting the Court to set aside a conviction, allow a new trial or offer some other remedy). The Court created a standard for a defendant who seeks to challenge his/her conviction that presumes such fatcs. In its decision, the Court stated “In light of Dookhan’s guilty pleas and the information gathered in the course of the investigation into her misconduct, we now hold that where Dookhan signed the certificate of drug analysis as either the primary or secondary chemist in the defendant’s case, the defendant is entitled to a conclusive presumption that Dookhan’s misconduct occurred in his case, that it was egregious, and that it is attributable to the Commonwealth.”
What does this mean to me?
If you offered a plea to the Court based on a drug certification that involved Dookhan, you may find yourself in a position to challenge your conviction. You may withdraw a guilty plea on the grounds that it was made involuntarily due to government misconduct if you show that (1) government agents (2) engaged in egregiously impermissible conduct (3) relating to your case, and (4) the misconduct was material to the your decision to plead guilty. This case assists a defendant in his/her burden of proof and puts the onus back on the Commonwealth. No longer do you have to show that Dookhan participated in misconduct directly related to your case. In plain language, this case presumes that points 1 -3 above have been met. The argument then must focus on the fact that you would not have otherwise pled guilty to this case (#4). To do so, you must show the Court that under the circumstances in your particular case, you would have decided to withdraw the plea.
How can we help?
You can see that these are legal arguments that require a knowledge and understanding of these very particular issues. You need an attorney to argue on your behalf. Contact us to review your case and advise you whether you would be successful in challenging your plea.