Legal Advocates Call for Independent Investigation of State Drug Lab Scandal

October 24, 2012 2:42 pm

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Letter to Attorney General Coakley says public trust will best be served by avoiding any potential conflict of interest.

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BOSTON — Today several groups–the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Massachusetts Bar Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts–called upon Attorney General Martha Coakley to relinquish control of the investigation into the Hinton drug lab scandal. In a letter, the groups urged the Attorney General “to appoint, or call for the appointment of, an independent investigator unencumbered by [any] potential conflict of interest, with complete control over the investigation’s scope, taking it wherever the facts lead.”

The letter explains that Attorney General Coakley should not assume responsibility for the investigation because the Attorney General’s Office prosecutes drug cases, works with county District Attorneys, and might have to investigate prosecutors who had improper communications with chemist Annie Dookhan. The groups point to recent reporting on a relationship between Dookhan and a Norfolk County prosecutor, which “confirm[s] that the misconduct warranting investigation extends beyond Dookhan” and “raises questions about other possible misconduct.”

The following statement may be attributed to ACLU of Massachusetts legal director Matthew Segal:

“Appropriately resolving the scandal will require ascertaining not only which cases are tainted, but also how they are tainted. For example, beyond the alleged malfeasance by Annie Dookhan, the scandal raises questions about possible violations of protocol by lab employees, prosecutors, and other law enforcement personnel. How thoroughly will prosecutors be investigated? Will those who had inappropriate contacts with Dookhan be permitted to continue to working on cases bearing her name? And when will facts about those contacts be disclosed to defense attorneys or the public?

“The public deserves answers to those questions. But it is decidedly not appropriate for the Attorney General’s Office to supply them.”

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