Statement from District Attorney Michael O'Keefe

Concerning drug cases affected by state lab problems...
District Attorney Michael O'Keefe on the steps of Barnstable County courthouse (courtesy of Mr. O'Keefe)

Statement issued today by District Attorney Michael O'Keefe:

District Attorneys were notified of the closure of the Department of Public Health’s Hinton Laboratory in Jamaica Plain on August 30, 2012.

The misconduct of a single chemist was allowed to morph into a statewide crisis by the lack of oversight of Governor Patrick’s Department of Public Health.

Since that time District Attorneys’ offices across the state triaged cases with a priority to any defendant serving a sentence, made numerous public statements alerting defendants to the issue, notified all defendants by U.S. mail in several languages and are now going into an additional notification process as ordered by the court.

You would have to be living under a rock to be a drug defendant and not know you had redress if your case involved this chemist. Yet the response to all of these outreach efforts was negligible.

Let’s keep in mind that we are not dealing with actual  innocence here, we are dealing with drug defendants the overwhelming majority of whom plead guilty, went through an exhaustive plea colloquy with a judge and testified under oath that they were “pleading guilty because they were guilty and for no other reason.”

Some are having their case dismissed because we believe that the integrity of our system of justice is more important than their conviction. Others whose cases are of significance and can be proven independent of the actions of this chemist will not be dismissed. This action is consistent with the interests of justice and the public safety. 

With respect to the Cape & Islands District some 2400 cases were examined since 2012. Seventy-one cases have already been readjudicated. One thousand sixty-seven (1067) cases will be dismissed. Over 50% of those were minor cases where the disposition was a continuance without a finding. One case remains on the list for prosecution.


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