While working in a forensics lab for nearly a decade, chemist Annie Dookhan’s test results played a central role in the convictions of tens of thousands of people. Then, in a shocking turn of events, an investigation revealed that Dookhan knowingly tainted evidence — rendering many of those convictions fundamentally flawed.
A series of rulings by the Supreme Judicial Court has helped some of these defendants overturn their convictions. But thousands remain either in prison or on parole.
"There are still 24,000 unresolved cases of people who are convicted based on tainted evidence, the vast majority for which were for really simple, minor crimes like possession of drugs," Rose said.
In July, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that those convicted on drug charges with tainted evidence could seek new trials. But Rose said the sheer volume of cases involved renders that option impossible.
"If we were to re litigate these, re prosecute these, on a case-by-case basis, we've calculated it would take 48 years," Rose said. "You can't give people their due process. It's not physically possible."
Rose says she's not looking to overturn cases in which Dookhan's evidence served as only part of the evidence for more serious crimes, like armed robbery. But the drug convictions, she says, are indefensible.
"The Commonwealth committed fraud," Rose said. "We have to vacate."
To hear more from Carol Rose, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.