Prosecutors in Massachusetts moved to throw out more than 21,000 drug convictions on Tuesday, five years after a chemist at the state drug lab was caught tampering with evidence and falsifying tests, the AP reports. The state's highest court had ordered district attorneys in seven counties to produce lists by Tuesday indicating how many of approximately 24,000 cases involving Annie Dookhan they would be unable or unwilling to prosecute if the defendants were granted new trials. The ACLU said Tuesday night that 21,587 cases had been recommended for dismissal. It said that would be the largest dismissal of criminal convictions in US history. The cases would be formally dismissed by court action, expected Thursday, the ACLU said.
Dookhan pleaded guilty in 2013 to obstruction of justice, perjury, and tampering with evidence after being accused of falsifying her work as far back as 2004. Prosecutors said Dookhan admitted testing only a fraction of a batch of samples, then listing them all as positive for illegal drugs. Her motive, they said, was to boost her productivity and burnish her reputation. She was sentenced to three years in prison and was paroled last year. Many of the drug case defendants have already completed their sentences, though some probably remain in prison because of other charges not contaminated by the lab scandal. About 2,000 cases had been resolved before Tuesday. (Read more Massachusetts stories.)