August 7, 2017 – In 2012, authorities discovered that Annie Dookhan, a chemist and the Hinton State Drug Lab had been tampering samples and falsely testifying at criminal trials. The Hinton State Drug Lab has since been shut down due to her egregious misconduct.
Individuals whose convictions were related to Dookhan’s tests, called “Dookhan Defendants” may have special legal rights. Individuals affected should have been notified by mail of the status of their cases, but those with questions can contact the Dookhan Case hotline number at 1-888-999-2881.It is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The hotline is operated by defense lawyers with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the public defender agency in Massachusetts.
In January 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that those who qualify as a “Dookhan Defendant” are entitled these certain legal rights:
- The right to speak to a lawyer for advice about whether to challenge the conviction(s) and to be represented by counsel in court. If the Dookhan defendant cannot afford a lawyer, he or she will be appointed one free of charge
- The right to “conclusive presumption” that Ms. Dookhan committed serious misconduct in their case. This means defendants do not have to prove that she mishandled the drug samples involved in the case.
- The right to ask a court to “vacate” or undo the conviction(s).
- Defendants who originally pleaded guilty have the right to withdraw their plea if they can show a “reasonable probability” that they would not have pleaded guilty if they had known about Ms. Dookhan’s misconduct.
- Defendants who were convicted at trial have the right to a new trial unless the court concludes that the Dookhan drug analysis did not influence the jury or had only a very slight effect on the jury.”