Former Massachusetts State Prosecutors Face Criticism For Work In Farak Case
In 2014, former Massachusetts State chemist Sonja Farak pled guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, four counts of larceny of controlled substances from a dispensary, and four counts of tampering with evidence. Farak testified in court to consuming laboratory test and police samples of methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, LSD, and other drugs. Starting in 2005, Farak’s lab work under the influence at the Amherst state lab likely impacted the outcome of nearly 18,000 convictions. Farak’s misconduct, however, is not unique or isolated to the State of Massachusetts . Annie Dookhan’s 2013 conviction for falsifying and forging scientific tests at the Hinton, Massachusetts lab impacted nearly 40,000 convictions. As of June 26, 2017, the ACLU sites only 23,595 of these original convictions have been dismissed.
Although the exception among lab testing, Dookhan and Farak’s convictions raise questions about oversight in government laboratories. Without close oversight and standardization in labs, are scientific tests as consistently reliable as we think they are? In an article for the Austin Monitor, Cate Malek challenges the admissibility of scientific evidence due to the lack of government oversight. Specifically targeting DNA, Malek suggests the absence of national standards and training guidelines for forensics testing often contributes to the unreliability of lab results nationwide. Nonetheless, scientific tests are almost always the strongest form of evidence in the eyes of a jury.
Failure to Disclose Evidence Causes Backlash
The mass-convictions associated with Dookhan and Farak, however, are more closely associated with the legal response of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Former state prosecutors, Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster recently faced backlash in court for their failure to disclose evidence related to Sonja Farak’s 2014 conviction. The Attorney General’s office withheld crucial mental health evaluations evidencing the extent of Farak’s drug use. Without this crucial information, the court could not determine exactly how many cases Farak’s misconduct influenced.
In response, the Hampden Superior Court claimed, the Attorney General’s Office failed “to disclose…seven pages of Farak’s mental health worksheets” and “to conduct an adequate investigation in 2013 on the nature and scope of Farak’s misconduct.” Ultimately, the court labeled Foster and Kaczmarek’s actions as containing “a depth of deceptiveness that constitutes a fraud upon the court.”
New York Innocence Project Seeking Sanctions
Members of the New York Innocence project have asked the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers to impose sanctions on the attorneys for withholding evidence. Kaczmarek now serves as a county assistant clerk magistrate and Foster is general counsel for the Massachusetts Alcohol and Beverage Control Commission.
Regardless of what’s to come of Kaczmarek and Foster, the convictions associated with Karak and Dookhan’s misconduct stand. Most recently, the ACLU claimed that the government has a responsibility to dismiss all convictions associated with Dookhan and Farak. Not only is their testing an unreliable source of evidence, they claim, but the Attorney General’s Office’s wrongdoing holds serious implications for the sentences. The court, however, still holds that these convictions be dismissed on a case-by-case basis. If you or someone you love needs help with their criminal defense, call our firm today! Our professionals are standing by to make sure that you get the help that you need!