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Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins vows to erase drug convictions linked to lab scandal

Rollins' office says tens of thousands of cases could potentially be impacted, but it is working to determine the exact number.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins speaks during a press conference at FBI Boston headquarters on January 12, 2021. Nancy Lane / Pool

BOSTON (AP) — Boston’s top prosecutor pledged Monday to vacate drug convictions for potentially tens of thousands of defendants whose cases are tied to a troubled former state drug testing lab.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said her office will work with defense attorneys to erase drug convictions for those whose drug certification was done at the now-closed William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute from May 2003 until its closure in August 2012.

Two chemists who worked there, Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak, were convicted of tampering with evidence. Thousands of convictions across the state have already been tossed because of their misconduct.

“By working together with our courtroom partners, today we no longer rely on potentially falsified or fabricated evidence, and finally declare what we should have over a decade ago, that the abject and systemic mismanagement of the Hinton Lab has rendered anything produced there inherently suspect,” Rollins said in an emailed statement.

Rollins’ office says tens of thousands of cases could potentially be impacted, but it is working to determine the exact number.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the state’s public defender agency applauded Rollins’ decision and urged other district attorneys to follow suit.

“This decision by the Suffolk district attorney shows the compassion and leadership that the criminal legal system sorely needs,” said Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

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