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Immigrants Face Collateral Damage of MA Crime Lab Misconduct

Former state crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan has served her sentence for falsifying drug evidence, resulting in dismissal of nearly 24,000 cases. (Pinterest/Truth Kings)
Former state crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan has served her sentence for falsifying drug evidence, resulting in dismissal of nearly 24,000 cases. (Pinterest/Truth Kings)
April 24, 2017

BOSTON – It was big news when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last week dismissed more than 20,000 drug cases due to misconduct by a former chemist at the state crime lab, but local legal advocates warn the collateral damage will continue.

Rahsaan Hall, racial justice director for ACLU Massachusetts, says immigrants are among those most likely to still suffer consequences, despite their convictions being dismissed.

Hall says that's especially true with the Trump administration expanding immigrants subject to deportation.

"It's a tragedy that people who were convicted on tainted evidence are people that will be pursued for deportation for ICE, you know – of course, that's disproportionately impacting people of color, people who are here from other countries," he states.

Prosecutors announced last week that they would dismiss most of the 24,000 cases that involved falsified drug evidence testing.

Former chemist Annie Dookhan admitted faking the tests and served three years in prison.

The Trump administration is taking a tough law and order stand, even concerning marijuana. In Hall's view, the biggest problem with the so-called war on drugs is the stigma that can affect people for the rest of their lives.

"It's an inability for an individual to find housing because of a criminal conviction, or receive a college loan, and in some instances, even maintain employment," he states.

There's a bill pending in the state legislature that Hall says could go a long way toward restoring confidence in the results that are delivered by the state crime labs.

"Pushing for the creation of a Forensics Oversight Commission to ensure that level of accountability that does not currently exist, accept and apart from an individual lab's accreditation."

The measure, Senate Bill 1285, is sponsored by Sen. William Brownsberger (D-2nd District). It heads next to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA