Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins launched a historic effort Thursday to overturn charges in tens of thousands of criminal cases built on drug evidence she says were tainted by rampant mismanagement and misconduct at a now-shuttered state drug lab, reports the Boston Globe. Defense attorneys, academics, and staffers from across the criminal justice system gathered in a virtual meeting for Rollins’s inaugural “Hinton Lab Initiative” summit, dividing into groups and receiving assignments to remedy convictions tied to the largest drug lab scandal in US history. One team was tasked with identifying convictions tied to evidence tested at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute between May 2003 and August 2012, when disgraced chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak worked there.
Another group will devise a strategy to dismiss the charges, and a third team will assist defendants whose convictions resulted in other adverse effects, such as immigration violations or enhanced sentences because of prior convictions. Others will work on a plan to ensure that such a crisis never occurs again in Massachusetts, Rollins said. Rollins’s office has said 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. The initiative only affects Suffolk County cases. The scandal, to date, has cost taxpayers $30 million.