Monthly Archives: December 2016

Digging for Truth on the Dookhan atrocity of justice

My Conversation With The Suffolk County assistant district attorney About Annie Dookhan

By Jamie Folk

Four the past four years, I’ve been investigating former Massachusetts state drug laboratory chemist Annie Dookhan, and her relationship with district attorneys across Massachusetts.  According to the Inspector General, Dookhan was the “lone bad actor” in the drug lab scandal.  They only wrote two sentences about her motive for what she did and her relationship with the state district attorneys in their report:

“The OIG did not determine Dookhan’s motive for tampering with her aliquots. However, the OIG finds that Dookhan’s motive was not based on a zealous desire to convict criminal defendants”

When that report was released in 2014, I already knew that statement was false.  I knew that because of this article that was released four days before Christmas in 2012:

http://archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/12/20/indicted-drug-analyst-annie-dookhan-mails-reveal-her-close-personal-ties-prosecutors/A37GaatHLKfW1kphDjxLXJ/story.html

Dookhan’s email trail proved she LOVED the district attorneys of our state, and they loved her.  She was their white knight, the chemist who always gave them what they wanted: sufficient evidence for convictions.  This reality flies in the face of everything the Massachusetts inspector general, district Attorneys and media have asserted about what happened with Dookhan at the Hinton lab.

I found this reality very curious and have had several conversations about it with my elected officials.  They were all shocked and outraged over what I showed them. I encouraged them to go to the Attorney General and demand they drop all charges against the thousands of Dookhan defendants.  None of them followed up or went to the Attorney General so I decided to talk to the people prosecuting the case.

I first spoke with John Verner from the Attorney General’s office in September 2015.  He prosecuted Dookhan for the attorney general’s office.  He is a nice guy.  I told him I knew Dookhan was in love with Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney [ADA] George Papachristos and was friends with several ADAs.  He said he was aware of that but didn’t think she was rigging drug evidence to get convictions for her friends in the DAs office.  I then showed him this email:

Verner had no answer to this email.  He promised me he would bring this up with his supervisors and get back to me.  He never got back to me and was later transferred to the Suffolk County ADAs office to work on cold cases.

The Suffolk County DAs office is fighting to uphold 24,000 convictions that were obtained, at least partially, through evidence tested by Annie Dookhan.  The State Supreme Court is now deliberating on what to do with all these cases. I then called the Suffolk County DA to see if they knew about Dookhan’s motives.

On Dec. 19, 2016 I called the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and left a voicemail asking ADA Ian Leser (who is prosecuting the Dookhan case in front of the state Supreme Judicial Court) to call me back and discuss concerns I had about his office’s prosecution of cases where Annie Dookhan provided drug evidence.  He called back a few hours later and we talked for approximately 30 minutes about Dookhan, the drug testing facility and the state’s criminal justice system in general.

During the course of the conversation, I said, “Dookhan was in love with former Norfolk County ADA George Papachristos.”  Leser said he was well aware of that and that he met Papachristos in court once when Papachristos was a defense attorney defending a client.  Leser said Papachristos introduced himself as “Annie Dookhan’s George Papchristos.”

I said, “Papachristos reported Dookhan’s inappropriate behavior to his supervisors at Norfolk County in 2009 and nothing was done about it,” and “He later leveraged Dookhan’s feelings for him for favors in testing drug evidence.” Leser agreed with that statement and said he was aware Papchristos reported Dookhan’s inappropriate behavior in 2009.

I then said, “Dookhan was friends with several DAs including some that worked in his office.”  Lesser replied that he saw emails between Dookhan and DAs that revealed their friendly relationships. I asked if he saw emails that made it obvious that Dookhan wanted DAs to win cases and he said “Yes.”

I said, “She was clearly rigging evidence to help DAs win cases,” and Lesser agreed.  I asked, “If you and your office knew all that information, then why are you fighting to uphold convictions they knew were made by a completely biased chemist who routinely rigged evidence?”

Lesser said they retested some of the evidence in these cases and it came back as true to what Dookhan tested.  I said that didn’t matter because Dookhan would routinely add evidence to samples to ensure a defendant was convicted. Lesser didn’t have an answer for that.

I inquired about Sonja Farak, a chemist at an Amherst, Mass., lab who pleaded guilty in 2014 of stealing drugs and tampering with evidence, setting off a second scandal after she revealed she was using crack cocaine and other drugs while analyzing evidence at the lab. with  where they conspired to give false testimony to classify a drug (Ecstasy Knockoff BZP) as Class E when it had yet to be scheduled by Massachusetts.

Lesser said he saw emails between Dookhan and Farak, and knew that Farak and Dookhan were both trying to convict people to help DAs.  I said, “This was the biggest violation of constitutional rights in the history of the Commonwealth,” and Lesser agreed.

I said, “As a citizen, it scared me that people who work for the state and the DAs office could and did rig evidence to convict tens of thousands of people and violate their constitutional rights without seeming to care about the damage they did to these people’s lives.”

Lesser said he would bring my concerns to his boss.

Jamie Folk is a volunteer activist based in the MetroWest Boston area. He has written, spoken and organized events to express outrage over the gross injustice of tainted evidence provided by Annie Dookhan, who is out of prison after serving 2.5 years of a 5 year sentence.

 

Send holiday REFORM greetings

EMIT doesn’t ask for money [we are all-volunteer] during the holidays. Instead, all year round, we ask for a thin slice of your time to add to the chorus in the wave of justice & corrections systems reform in Massachusetts.
With the CSG report due out imminently, take a minute to contact Gov. Charlie Baker and/or Speaker Robert DeLeo and encourage them to adopt  justice reinvestment — which means investing in jobs, education, job training and support for small business startups in urban communities hardest hit by mass incarceration.
The theory is to roll over money saved by fewer people behind bars and use it productively to start a new life for formerly incarcerated people.
See more info here in this Globe story from yesterday on the outdated state of our justice and corrections systems.  Here’s Speaker DeLeo’s and Gov. Baker’s contact info. My sample email follows- feel free to copy and paste and edit in your correspondence.
Dear Speaker DeLeo:
During this time of hope and celebration, I urge you to think of the 10,000 people in free public housing in our state’s prisons and jails. 
We are not the worst offender in the Union for lack of justice, however, there are MANY more reforms possible than covered by the CSG. I urge you to go further and rollover the money saved by incarcerating fewer people, getting rid of the bail system that favors the rich and guilty, and reinvesting it in urban communities hardest hit by incarceration. Please do everything in your power to adopt justice re-investment in the coming legislative session.
THANKS AND Happy Holidays from the EMIT team.

Fees add to hurdles of returning citizens after jail

By Andy Metzger     STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 15, 2016…Inmates released from prison who are placed on probation should not need to pay fees for their supervision, the chief justice of the district court said Wednesday.

“The imposition of a fee at that point in time, a probation fee, is counter to rehabilitative efforts, and we’ve seen some evidence it interferes with employment, with housing,” District Court Chief Justice Paul Dawley told the Governor’s Council during a hearing.

Dawley led a court system working group on judicial reforms, producing a report Nov. 17 that the chief justice said had been shared with Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg.

“It’s been positively received by all three,” Dawley said Wednesday.

The Big Three have also collaborated with Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants on developing a justice system reform package for next session.

Policymakers are eyeing ways to reduce recidivism, cut down on incarceration and related costs, and deliver more supports to individuals before and after they are released from jails and prisons. Revenue constraints loom as a potential obstacle to more expansive pre- and post-incarceration services, as state officials are in the midst of a midyear budget reductions and the appetite for new or higher taxes on Beacon Hill appears low.

On Tuesday the Jobs Not Jails coalition rallied in Boston for the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes while worrying that the coming reforms would only result in “tinkering” with the laws and changes to probation and parole.

On Wednesday, appearing on behalf of attorney Sarah Ellis’s nomination to the Woburn District Court, Dawley said state laws currently force the assessment of certain fees on defendants regardless of their ability to pay.

“There are some statutes that exist now that make it very difficult for judges,” Dawley told Councilor Robert Jubinville. “In fact there are some statutes, as you know, that take away any discretion of the judge to actually waive a fee or fine. The law is very clear.”

The working group suggested new court policies and proposed legislation in response to recommendations from the U.S. Department of Justice, which concluded that the criminal justice system in Ferguson, Missouri had “deprived people of their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and other federal protections.”

In public speeches, Gants has also questioned the fees imposed on defendants.

According to the working group, people placed on probation are charged either $65 or $50 per month. In some cases, defendants released from incarceration can be assessed monthly fees for both parole and probation supervision, according to the report.

The group, which was led by Dawley and counted Ellis as a member, recommended the court explore the feasibility of allowing defendants to establish payment plans, develop a remote-access electronic payment system, and adopt a policy requiring judges to appoint attorneys for indigent defendants in proceedings when the enforcement of fees and fines related to a criminal case could lead to incarceration.

A person can be incarcerated for non-payment when a judge finds the person was able to pay and willfully failed to pay, according to the report, which says “the judge should consider alternatives to incarceration.”

In fiscal 2016, the Trial Court collected $99.9 million in fines, fees and court costs in 30 collection categories, while also assessing $73.9 million in restitution, and ordering $1.4 million in forfeited bail money turned over to the General Fund.

“There’s no judge in our system that wants to sit there all day and collect money,” Dawley said.

Jubinville recalled a time he spent in court in recent months where he saw a judge repeatedly order people to be locked up for failure to make payments.

“Five straight people got locked up in a row,” Jubinville said. “I said to the court officer sitting next to me, ‘This is like the French revolution. Step up and off with their heads. Into the lock-up.'”

The working group suggested changes to the “several statutes” that prohibit judges from ordering waivers on specific fines and fees. As an example of a non-waivable fee it would like to see changed, the group noted a $250 head injury assessment for driving under the influence of drugs or liquor.

The group wants changes to a law last amended in 1987 that applies to people incarcerated for failing to pay fines. Current law allows people to “work off” the amount they owe, receiving $30 off the balance owed for every day incarcerated. The working group calculated that $30 in 1987 would be worth $64.21 today. The working group also recommended development of a single standard that could be used by a judge in determining whether to waive a fee based on a person’s inability to pay.

-END-
12/15/2016

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CSG call 12/10; Demand Justice in phone-in campaign for Doukan cases

Join a statewide EMIT call 
Monday, Dec 12, 7-8 pm to learn more about  legislation to be proposed by the CSG – Council of State Governments. EMIT leaders Laura Wagner and Dirck Stryker will lead the discussion. Your questions and comments are welcome.
 Call in: (712) 432-1212  Meeting ID – 351-484-548#
ACT this week for justice – Dec 12-16
ADD YOUR voice for justice Dec. 12-16 for 50,000+ convicted on tainted evidence supplied by Annie Dookhan in the state drug lab. Please call your district attorney [and others] to demand the cases be dismissed.
Dookhan is out of prison after serving just three years. Her lies impacted more than 50,000 drug cases in Massachusetts.  Many are out of jail yet still suffer collateral consequences of having this false accusation on their record.
Several MA District Attorneys have filed a SUPREME COURT Case to make sure these bogus guilting findings stick ! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE.
PLEASE join our statewide calling campaign this week. Suffolk County had the most cases and the most prosecuting happy DA. If you’re gonna make one call, DA Dan Conley, Suffolk – 617-619-4000 is the man to target.
 If you’re interested, read on. Script below. You may be directed to voice mail. Ignore the message on the voice mail and leave yours.
District attorneys will be up for re-election in 2018. Most elected officials run on the fear that they will not be re-elected. HAVE a local impact by contacting your district attorney about this disgraceful injustice. 
Demand the FULL DISMISSAL of the drug lab convictions based on false evidence. Together, we can hold prosecutors in Massachusetts accountable for corruption and abuse of power and xpress  support and solidarity for  thousands harmed by these tainted convictions.
District Attorneys are elected officials by county. Seven counties were involved in the Drug Lab scandal. Start by calling your District Attorney, because constituents have the most impact. Time permitting, you can call them all! The call in campaign runs through Friday, December 16.
Here is the info:
DA Dan Conley, Suffolk – 617-619-4000
DA Thomas Quinn, Bristol – 508-997-0711
DA Jonathan Blodgett, Essex – 978-745-6610
DA Marian Ryan, Middlesex – 781-897-8300 (Press 0)
DA Michael O’Keefe, Cape – 508-362-8113
DA Michael Morrissey, Norfolk – 
781-830-4800  (Press 0)
DA Timothy Cruz, Plymouth – 508-584-8120

CALL SCRIPT: “Hi, my name is ____________ and I live in ____________ and I’m calling to urge the District Attorney to dismiss the tainted drug convictions. Dismissing these cases is the only way to restore justice to people who continue to experience the negative impact of their convictions. Protecting drug convictions based on false evidence serves no public good. Please tell the District Attorney to dismiss all tainted convictions.”

*Please let us know you called: https://goo.gl/forms/Ibafz2WDgyBUUHhn1

*If you have been personally impacted by the Dookhan drug lab scandal we would love to hear from you about how we can organize together.
BACKGROUND: Massachusetts state drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan tainted more than 24,000 convictions with falsified evidence from 2003-2011. Dookhan reported positive drug test results without conducting tests, reported negative results as positives, and may have inflated drug weights. In 2010 and 2011, colleagues reported her misconduct to superiors, but the government did not take any action. Instead, the Department of Public Health allowed Dookhan to continue working. One in six drug convictions made between 2003-2011 in the Commonwealth relied on Dookhan’s tainted evidence, and 62% of these convictions were for simple possession.

*PROSECUTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE: Even after learning of Dookhan’s misconduct, and that she had repeatedly lied in court, prosecutors continued to use Dookhan’s falsified evidence and testimony to coerce people into pleading guilty. Prosecutors have the power to dismiss the tainted convictions and restore justice at any time, but they have instead chosen to defend these tainted convictions.

*PROSECUTORS ARE PROTECTING CONVICTIONS, NOT PEOPLE: The prosecutors’ refusal to dismiss these cases is an abuse of power. Meanwhile, the people they convicted with false evidence continue to suffer from the trauma of incarceration, criminal records, loss of public housing, deportation, and enhanced sentences on any future convictions. These consequences also impact people’s children and families. By protecting these tainted convictions, prosecutors have demonstrated they do not care about the impact on people’s lives. Arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for drugs is harmful, expensive, and serves no public good – especially when convictions are based on fraud.

*MORE INFO:
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2016/09/the_annie_dookhan_convictions_need_to_be_overturned_now.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/letters/2016/11/21/this-point-drug-lab-cases-that-are-tainted/VjJvXDFuPxNlin4zcO0ILK/story.html

http://theinfluence.org/prosecutors-cynically-attack-the-rights-of-thousands-convicted-under-drug-lab-tests-scandal

CSG 2017 omnibus bill needs backbone

You may have heard about the Council of State Governments [CSG] recommendations to come on justice/corrections systems in Massachusetts to be proposed when the new 18-month legislative session opens in January on Beacon Hill.
Join a statewide EMIT call on Monday, Dec 12, 7-8 pm to learn more about this critical legislation.  EMIT leaders Laura Wagner and Dirck Stryker will lead the discussion. Your questions and comments are welcome.
Call in: (712) 432-1212  Meeting ID – 351-484-548#
 
Here’s more information on the Monday call and Tuesday rally downtown led by EMIT’s partners, the Jobs not Jails coalition.
 
The Governor, Speaker, Senate President, and Chief Justice will JOINTLY file a bill in mid-January on criminal justice reform.   It will include some of the recommendations of a CSG report on the criminal justice system in Massachusetts to be released when their bill is filed.

  a.  The Good News–This elevates criminal justice reform to being a “must pass” a bill situation given the Governor, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice are behind it.

  b.  THE CHALLENGE: The bill they file will likely NOT strong enough and focus on probation, parole, and recidivism. It will likely ignore the repeal of long mandatory minimum sentences on non-violent drug offenders etc. 

 Read more about the Jobs Not Jails Priorities

WHAT YOU CAN DO
1.  Attend the Rally / Press Conference on December 13 at 10:00.

140 Bowdoin St Boston, Church of the New Jerusalem.  Jobs NOT Jails will have a rally/press conference to call on the four state leaders to include the six proposed bills of the Jobs NOT Jails Coalition

2.  Contact your legislators and/or come to the Jobs Not Jails Lobby Day in January – ask that they co-sponsor the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, The Justice Reinvestment Act, which will include the Jobs Not Jails Priorities.  More details to come – filing deadline is Jan 20

3. In March 2017, the coalition will organize six  major public action meetings in Boston, Brockton, New Bedford, Worcester, Springfield, Lynn, Lowell to show large-scale public support from major criminal justice reform and engage legislators, mayor, sheriffs, police chiefs.  

 
Let us know if you can help organize one of these events or offer a meeting space. Contact: Laura Wagner lwagner@uumassaction.org