Citing widespread misconduct and a “catastrophic failure of management,” Boston District Attorney Rachael Rollins is dropping charges in tens of thousands of criminal cases that had evidence processed at a scandal-plagued state drug lab, widening the scope of what was already the largest drug lab scandal in the country’s history, reports the Boston Globe.
Rollins, chief law enforcement officer for Suffolk County, where Boston is located, outlined her plan, called the Hinton Lab Initiative, in a court filing Monday, vowing to work with attorneys to resolve drug convictions tied to analyses done at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute between May 2003 and its closing in August 2012. Rollins said her office is still trying to determine the total number of individuals with drug convictions tied to Hinton, but noted that more than 190,000 cases were processed through the facility between 2003 and 2012, and that approximately 74,848 test analyses could be tossed out through the initiative.
Even before Monday’s revelations, fallout from the decade-long drug lab scandal had been extensive, resulting in the dismissal of more than 35,000 drug convictions, as well as the prosecution of former state chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak. Their misconduct has cost the state more than $30 million to date. Those wrongfully convicted of drug crimes have received penalties including prison or jail time, loss of parental rights and, in an untold number of cases, deportation.
Taxpayers continue to shoulder millions to clean up the scandal, including repaying defendants an estimated $10 million for court, probation, and other fees stemming from their prosecutions. Three state prosecutors are also facing the loss of their law license for withholding evidence in a pending case with the Board of Bar Overseers.