In 2012, a chemist working for a crime lab in Massachusetts admitted to the unthinkable.
After an extensive investigation, Annie Dookhan told the police that she had altered and faked lab test results over the course of 9 years to cover up the fact that she hadn’t been properly testing many of her samples.
These samples were evidence from drug related crimes, and there weren’t just a few.
She had tainted the results of tens of thousands of samples, which contributed to the conviction of over 24,000 of suspects.
Considering how many innocent lives she sent to prison (a number that is probably impossible to establish), she got off easy.
Dookhan was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to three to five years in prison and two years probation. She was released on parole in April of 2016.
Though her part in this story is over, the state of Massachusetts has been burdened with the weight of her misconduct, in the form of 24,000 convictions that are related to her tainted samples.
State officials have been debating what to do with all of these convictions for several years, and have finally settled on a solution.
District attorneys throughout the state have told a district court that they’re going to defend less than 1,000 of these convictions.
In other words, nearly 24,000 drug convictions are going to be dropped, and presumably, a staggering number of people will be released from prison.
According to estimates by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, if the state hadn’t vacated these convictions en masse, it would have taken “48 years to assign public defenders to each of the 24,483 defendants potentially harmed by Dookhan’s dirty work.”