The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a sweeping dismissal of convictions in nearly 8,000 criminal cases on Thursday as the latest development in the Amherst drug lab scandal.
The scandal came to light in January of 2013 when Massachusetts police found that Amherst lab chemist Sonja Farak had tampered with police-submitted drug evidence during her course of employment, according to a report filed by the Office of the Attorney General. The official investigation found that, over the course of eight years, Farak had heavily abused confiscated drugs including cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamines.
Supreme Judicial Court Justice Frank Gaziano authorized Thursday's dismissals and also signed the June of 2017 order that vacated over 22,000 convictions tainted in an unrelated evidence tampering in Massachusetts Hinton drug lab.
Of the nearly 8,000 vacated cases, approximately 300 were juvenile, according to the Boston Globe. Massachusetts public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union are seeking the dismissal of every drug case processed by the Amherst drug lab under Farak's tenure.
DNA and drug testing for criminal cases often contribute to the United States' backlog of cases in the criminal justice system. Results can take months, and many low-income people are in the meantime left in jail, awaiting their hearing and unable to afford bail. Deputy Chief Counsel Gioia said in a press conference that the Farak case is a "reflection of how a misguided War on Drugs turned into a war on poor people and people of color" and emphasized the positive outcomes of Farak's conviction.