Expanding relief for drug defendants whose cases crossed paths with a now-disgraced chemist, the highest court in Massachusetts agreed Thursday to throw out nearly a decade’s worth of meth convictions plus all cases from the chemist’s last four years on the job, reports Courthouse News Service. Though the exact number of implicated cases is unclear, previous court filings established that there were 7,690 drug cases from the state’s laboratory in Amherst where chemist Sonja Farak signed the drug certificate. Farak’s 11-year career ended in 2013 when she was arrested for stealing cocaine from the facility. As part of her guilty plea, Farak admitted that her she had made a daily habit of treating the drug lab’s evidence supply as a personal narcotics buffet.
While the state wanted to vacate only the 8,000 cases where Farak signed the drug certificate, the American Civil Liberties Union said the relief should cover every sample from Amherst that was tested during Farak’s employment. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed Thursday that Farak’s misdeeds implicated far more than the cases she herself handled. “We conclude that Farak’s widespread evidence tampering has compromised the integrity of thousands of drug convictions apart from those that the Commonwealth has agreed should be vacated and dismissed,” wrote Associate Justice Frank Gaziano for the seven-member court. “Her misconduct, compounded by prosecutorial misconduct, requires that this court exercise its superintendence authority and vacate and dismiss all criminal convictions tainted by governmental wrongdoing.” Marking the court’s third brush with the Farak case, the ruling also singles out state prosecutors for initially masking the extent of misconduct. The court ordered district attorneys to work with the ACLU and the Committee for Public Counsel Services to determine how many more cases need to be dismissed.