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Massachusetts crime lab mishap topples more drug charges

As the story concerning the misconduct of a Massachusetts chemist unfolds, more and more men and women convicted of drug related charges are being reexamined to determine if their evidence samples were among those affected. We just reported on the growing scandal on Oct. 2 (Massachusetts crime lab negligence: drug charges plea reversed). Three men in a Worcester County case may see changes in their sentences for drug charges as defense lawyers begin to file motions that client's sentences be stayed and seek their release. The mishandling of over 60,000 drug samples may have led to inaccurate results and false convictions in these and other convictions.

In Oct. 2007 the Fitchburg police teamed up with the US Drug Enforcement Administration to track a package that was suspected of containing illegal drugs. What was found in the package was sent to the crime lab to be tested. However, the actions of one chemist voided the certainty of the contents. This chemist reportedly tested some samples by sight only, without chemical testing, and purposely tainted other samples.

Of the three men sentenced in this case involving supposedly 300 pounds of marijuana, one man has served nearly two years of his three year sentence for marijuana trafficking, and also had an additional six months for a charge of conspiracy to violate drug laws. He may now be released on personal recognizance. The man's defense asserts that the samples which were perhaps altered were destroyed, which leaves no evidence for a retrial. This attorney does not see any valid reasoning anyone previously convicted of drug charges to be retried based on the sample evidences being tainted and thus unusable in court.

Two other men involved in the drug charges case may find themselves having charges altered in light of recent events. One of those two men has served one year in prison and was given credit for time served. By the time the dust clears surrounding the Massachusetts crime lab, many more convictions based on potentially tainted samples may be revisited as efforts are made to ensure the legal rights of all people who come before our state criminal justice system are treated fairly.

Source:, "Evidence in Fitchburg drug case was tested by rogue chemist," Scott J. Croteau, Oct. 9, 2012

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