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ACLU Asks Mass. High Court To Rule On Drug Lab Scandal

BOSTON — Civil rights advocates are asking Massachusetts’ highest court for clarification on how to handle cases affected by the state drug lab scandal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is asking the Supreme Judicial Court to find that all defendants whose cases were handled by former state chemist Annie Dookhan have a presumptive right to have their sentences put on hold while motions for new trials are pending.

Dookhan has been accused of faking test results and tampering with evidence.

Matthew Segal, the ACLU’s legal director, says too many people are in jail awaiting motions for new trials.

“The defendants in those cases, the people whose convictions are tainted by those cases, are bearing the costs of the explosion of litigation,” Segal said. “They’re all being told to wait in line.”

He added: “There’s so many cases and such a huge amount of misconduct at the bottom of this that people are suffering due process violations — on top of the scandal that happened to begin with.”

The SJC is scheduled to hear two cases next month in which Essex County prosecutors are asking the court to clarify whether special magistrates appointed to handle Dookhan cases have the right to put a defendant’s sentence on hold and release him from jail before his motion for a new trial is decided.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press

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