In Massachusetts when someone is charged with drug possession or trafficking, the consequences can be severe if a criminal conviction is ultimately obtained. Time in prison lost from family and friends, or fines may be just a few of the penalties paid. When one is arrested for drug charges, the samples taken from an investigation are sent to secure locations for analysis by trained professionals. These persons are determined to identify the substance though proven methods. What happens, then, when someone is convicted of a crime, only to find out the evidence may have been mishandled by these crime labs?
State Police have determined that a chemist at one such crime lab may have purposefully mishandled or affected the handling of over 50,000 drug samples over a 9 year period. Obviously this can have detrimental effects on the results of those tests that were supposedly accurate. If a sample was mishandled or was not properly identified and then led to the conviction of possible innocent persons, appeals to reverse any conviction obtained and suppress any drug evidence that was improperly tested could well follow.
This chemist’s responsibilities supposedly included quality control measures to ensure machinery used by other chemists was operating properly. If she indeed did mishandle and purposefully did so, then the reach of her misconduct may have spread beyond her own personal involvement with samples. Attorneys representing individuals whose cases were evaluated by this lab have already begun appeal processes, including one stemming from a conviction for reported trafficking, drug violation in school zone, possession and weapons charges.
As this unfolds and the investigation continues, there will surely be others that demand reversal of their convictions. The investigation is being conducted by a joint effort of Massachusetts state and district attorneys. More information is expected to be revealed soon as those offices dig deeper in to the possible unlawful activity and into those cases of drug charges potentially affected by the reported actions of the chemist.
Source: New Jersey Herald, “Lawyers expect appeals in Mass. crime lab case,” Denise Lavoie, Sept. 13, 2012