Despite the changing attitudes about cannabis, America’s war on drugs is still in full effect. And nothing is more exemplary of those failed policies than the case of Annie Dookhan, a Massachusetts state police chemist recently released from a three year prison stint for falsifying test results and tampering with evidence.
But because of Dookhan’s abhorrent criminal behavior almost five years ago, approximately 20,000 convicted drug offenders in Massachusetts will have their cases overturned.
According to the Huffington Post, district attorneys in the seven counties affected by Dookhan’s tampering will have until April 18th to specify which of the tens of thousands of cases they will attempt to take to court again. The remaining victims of the drug war will walk free.
Even in the face of Dookhan’s misconduct, prosecutors and defense attorneys have fought for almost five years about the 20,000 drug cases since the chemist’s conviction in 2012. The prosecutors tried their hardest to keep all of the convictions intact, but ultimately ceded to the defense attorneys.
“It is a substantial victory,” Carl Williams, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, told The Huffington Post. “Prosecutors have been fighting for years and years to defend these cases in a time where more drugs are decriminalized than when this case began.”
District attorneys haven’t yet disclosed how many cases they wish to pursue for a second time, but Williams puts the number in the hundreds, not the thousands, meaning the vast majority of the more than 20,000 cases will be dismissed.
But while justice may have won out this time, the war on drugs rages on, and will no doubt continue to take freedom away from innocent people. Dookhan, on the other hand, served less time than some of the people she helped wrongly convict.
“People have had to live with convictions based on tainted evidence, and that’s not justice,” Williams said. “When you build a machine like the war on drugs, it is inevitable in the rush to incarcerate people that things like this are going to happen.”