State High Court Ruling Provides Safe Harbor for Those Who Challenge Wrongful Convictions Based on Tainted Evidence from the Hinton State Drug Lab
The highest court in Massachusetts on Monday provided a safe harbor for thousands of people with tainted convictions stemming from Annie Dookhan's misconduct at the Hinton state drug lab.
In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, and Foley Hoag LLP on behalf of three individuals affected by the lab scandal, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a sweeping defense of due process, ruling that people may challenge their wrongful convictions without fear of retaliation by prosecutors.
"Today's decision is a profound victory for tens of thousands of people who were denied due process by misconduct at the Hinton Lab, and for anyone who has a stake in the integrity of the Commonwealth's criminal justice system," said Matthew R. Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "For years, many of Annie Dookhan's victims have worried that challenging their tainted convictions could subject them to even harsher convictions and sentences.
"Many others did not even know that they could challenge their convictions in court, because public officials neither identified all of Dookhan's cases nor directly notified her victims," Segal said. "In a sense, many people did not know how to find the courthouse doors, and many others were too afraid to knock.