On Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, the Massachusetts Bar Association
along with the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the
Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the
American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts called on Attorney
General Martha M. Coakley to appoint or call for the appointment of
an independent investigator in the crisis involving the William
Hinton State Drug Laboratory.
"As unimpeachable as the Office of the Attorney General is, an
institution that prosecutes drug cases, supports the State Police
unit that investigates drug cases and also supports drug
prosecutions by district attorneys will be perceived as having a
stake in the investigation's outcome," the letter states. Visit www.massbar.org to read the full letter.
Following the delivery of the letter to Coakley, the signing
parties received multiple media inquiries. Comments from MBA Chief
Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy were
included in articles and segments featured in/on The Associated
Press, The Boston Globe, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, State House
News Service, WBZ radio, WBUR-FM and Channel 5 WCVB-TV.
Since news broke in late August of alleged mishandling of drug
evidence by a chemist at the Department of Public Health's Drug
Laboratory at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica
Plain, the MBA has been actively working and meeting with state
officials from the Gov. Deval L. Patrick Administration, Attorney
General's Office, U.S. Senator John Kerry's office, courts and the
Committee for Public Counsel Services to address the ongoing issues
surrounding the crisis.
The association established an online resource center to assist
practitioners representing affected clients. Members of the bar who
have clients affected are encouraged to visit the MBA's online Drug
Lab Crisis Resources Center at www.massbar.org/legislative-activities/drug-lab-crisis-resource-center.
"Providing access for counsel representing clients in thousands of
cases affected, has been a priority of the MBA," said MBA Vice
President Robert W. Harnais.
Reports indicate that the rogue chemist may have handled more than
60,000 samples with 34,000 cases potentially being impacted.
In addition to creating the online resource center, at the request
of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the MBA
disseminated time sensitive information on access to database
information to identify individuals whose cases may have been
affected. The MBA followed those efforts with a training seminar in
early October. Seminar materials can be found at the online
On Sept. 20, Gov. Deval Patrick announced his appointment of David
Meier, a former Suffolk County homicide prosecutor and current
partner at Todd & Weld, to lead the effort of reviewing the
tens of thousands of cases that may have been affected by this
evidence tampering (see related article on page 13).
A week following his appointment, Meier reported that 690 people
were in state prison and 450 people are in county jails or houses
of correction due to evidence that may have been mishandled at the
The courts responded accordingly. "The Trial Court is ready and
available to handle cases immediately," according to an Oct. 2,
2012 press release issued by the Supreme Judicial Court. The
release detailed the creation of dedicated court sessions and named
the assigned judges in the Superior, District and Boston Municipal
courts to oversee the cases' prioritized processing.
For a list of sessions and judges, visit the MBA's online resource
center at www.massbar.org/legislative-activities/drug-lab-crisis-resource-center.
News of the breach at Hinton State Laboratory first came at the
end of August, with more details issued by the State Police in the
first weeks of September. Annie Dookhan, a chemist who worked at
the DPH drug lab for nine years, allegedly mishandled drug evidence
used in criminal cases by altering the weight of drugs, not
calibrating machines correctly, and manipulating samples to test as
drugs when they were not. The Hinton State Laboratory was closed on