The state of Massachusetts is preparing to dismiss 21,587 drug cases tied to a former chemist who falsified evidence for years, according to the ACLU. It is said to be the largest dismissal of wrongful convictions as a result of one case in U.S. history.
In January, Massachusetts’ highest court had ordered district attorneys to produce lists by Tuesday of the roughly 24,000 cases connected to the chemist’s work that could be dismissed. The ACLU of Massachusetts went through the lists Tuesday night and found that 21,587 cases (almost all of them) had been recommended for dismissal. The formal court action could happen as early as Thursday.
The drug-lab chemist was Annie Dookhan, a former employee of the Department of Public Health, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to 27 criminal counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury, and tampering with evidence. She was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison and was released last year, the New York Times reported.
There are 320 cases that will not be dismissed, and defendants will have the opportunity for retrial.
Most of those sentenced to jail time (some for several years) from Dookhan’s eight years’ work have already served their sentences, according to the ACLU. Beyond prison time, those convicted held records that harmed employment opportunities, limited housing prospects, and, in some cases, threatened immigration status.
“Unfortunately, the victims of this crisis waited far too long for justice,” said Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement.