NWDA to dismiss 1,497 drug cases

Date: 
11.30.2017

Yesterday, Nov. 29, 2017, the Office of Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan filed the attached documents with the Supreme Judicial Court, in which the Office announced its intention to dismiss every single drug conviction in the Northwestern District that was tainted by former chemist Sonja Farak, who was convicted of tampering with drug samples during her time at the Department of Public Health laboratory in Amherst.  

This filing came in response to a petition filed by the Committee for Public Counsel Services(CPCS) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in which they asked the Supreme Judicial Court to craft a remedy for Farak’s misconduct.  

As explained in yesterday’s filing, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office has been working tirelessly for years—long before the joint CPCS/ACLU petition was filed—to identify every drug case impacted by Farak’s misconduct.  In order to do this, the Office first had to obtain data from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office identifying the thousands of drug samples Farak tested during her time in Amherst.  The Office received some of this data in May 2015, and the remainder in February 2017.  

Once equipped with this data, the Office was then able to identify 1,497 criminal cases between 2004 and 2012 in which drug convictions were based upon certificates of analysis signed by Farak.  Rather than sifting through these cases to see which ones might be capable of reprosecution, District Attorney Sullivan decided a different approach was needed.

“The egregious misconduct committed by one rogue chemist at the Amherst Lab shook the very foundation of our criminal justice system, the integrity of which must be preserved at all costs,” said District Attorney Sullivan.  

“Although we have no reason to believe that anyone was wrongfully convicted in the cases being dismissed, it would not be in the best interests of justice to attempt to reprosecute them.”