Another Day, Another Round Of Special Drug Court Hearings

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It was another day, and another round of special court hearings involving evidence that may have been deliberately tainted by a chemist at a Massachusetts drug lab.

MCI Shirley Day

In Courtroom 808 of Suffolk Superior Court, Thursday was MCI Shirley Day.

Which meant that Thursday, a day after MCI Cedar Junction Day, the special drug court would take up motions to stay sentencing in drug crimes from inmates from the Shirley prison.

To streamline the process, the court is going prison to prison, and focusing on only the cases where the now-notorious Annie Dookhan was the chemist analyzing the evidence.

She signed off on the evidence that led Christopher Osorio to plead guilty to trafficking in cocaine. On Thursday he won a stay of sentence without having to post bail.

"He's going to have a GPS on him, he's going to have a curfew," said his attorney, Joshua Hanye.

With Judge Christine McEvoy presiding, the court has efficiently tried to work its way through a battlefield of casualties, triaging the cases, giving priority to inmates whose convictions may have resulted from tainted or fabricated evidence.

"And if the drug certificate is in question and they can't be convicted, they don't belong in jail waiting for the commonwealth to do anything," said defense attorney Andrew Stockwell-Alpert.

With the office of District Attorney Dan Conley agreeing with most of the defendant's motions, the judge granted stays of sentence to 13 inmates, and set most bails at $200 or $500.

What's Next

For the defendants it's a temporary release from prison. Hayne describes what's next for his client:

I expect we're going to file the motion to vacate the guilty plea, which is where all these cases are going. The court can't handle them right now. The court is just trying to deal with the people who are in custody who shouldn't be in custody. Down the road, in the next two to three months, they're going to start hearing the motions to vacate the guilty pleas.

And if the defendants succeed in withdrawing their guilty pleas, the prosecutors will have to decide: Do they recharge the defendants and try them over again, or do they drop the case altogether? One big question will be whether the drugs that were the evidence are drugs at all and untainted by Dookhan.

For Suffolk Superior Courtroom 808, Friday will be another day, another prison, another shovel into the mountain.

This program aired on October 18, 2012.

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David Boeri Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.



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