Class-action lawsuit filed in Jamaica Plain drug lab scandal

  • FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2013 file photo, former state chemist Annie Dookhan sits in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. Dookhan pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and falsifying thousands of tests in criminal drug cases, calling into question evidence used to prosecute the defendants. The state's highest court ordered the district attorneys in Massachusetts to produce lists by Tuesday, April 18, 2017, indicating how many of the approximately 24,000 tainted cases they would not or could not prosecute if new trials were ordered. (David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via AP, Pool, File) David L. Ryan

Published: 2/23/2018 11:39:06 PM

Three individuals who had their convictions overturned due to the misconduct of former state chemist for the state lab in Jamaica Plain filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston on Friday.

Stacy Foster, Jamie Kimball and Jonathan Riley filed the suit on behalf of themselves and more than 21,000 individuals whose drug convictions were vacated in April due to the misconduct of chemist Annie Dookhan.

Dookhan was arrested in 2012 and convicted of tampering with evidence. She had been found to be “dry-labbing,” or identifying samples by sight without actually testing them, to boost her work production and impress her superiors.

The lawsuit names the commonwealth, Gov. Charlie Baker, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, Attorney General Maura Healey, Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Kerry Gilpin, seven district attorneys and others as the defendants in the case.

The suit alleges that state officials have mistreated, and continue to mistreat, Foster, Kimball, Riley and the other so-called Dookhan defendants as if they were convicted drug offenders by keeping case-related payments, failing to pay for uncompensated labor and not returning property that was forfeited due to the convictions.

“Charging defendants, many of whom struggle to make ends meet, all sorts of costs and fees to fill the coffers of the Commonwealth and run the criminal justice systems is bad policy with harmful consequences,” Northampton attorney Luke Ryan said in a statement. “Refusing to refund money, to pay for uncompensated labor, and to return seized property to people who were wrongfully convicted is even worse — it is against the law.”

Ryan, as well as Boston attorneys Daniel Marx and William Fick, are representing the three plaintiffs.

Due to the convictions, Foster, Kimball, Riley and others were made to pay court costs, probation fees, mandatory assessments, fines, restitution, license-reinstatement fees and sometimes performed mandatory uncompensated labor — community service in lieu of required payments.

Foster, a 51-year-old engineer from Boston, pleaded guilty in November 2005 to distribution of a Class A substance and as part of the conviction was ordered to pay monthly probation supervision fees, according to the lawsuit. He also lost his driver’s license and had to pay fees to reinstate it, according to the suit. When his conviction was vacated and dismissed in April, no case-related payments were refunded or returned.

Kimball, a 35-year-old Woburn resident, admitted to sufficient facts to be found guilty of misdemeanor conspiracy to violate the drug laws in February 2010. At the time of her arrest, police seized approximately $1,800 in money orders and cash that were to be used to pay her rent and were from work. She was also ordered to undergo regular drug testing and counseling at her own expense, according to the lawsuit. When her conviction was vacated and dismissed in April, no case-related payments were refunded or returned.

Riley, a 35-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran now living in Texas, pleaded guilty in March 2008 to possession with intent to distribute a class D substance, according to the lawsuit. He was ordered to pay monthly probation supervision fees and also lost his driver’s license and had to pay fees to reinstate it, according to the suit. When his conviction was vacated and dismissed in April, no case-related payments were refunded or returned.

On the same day they and the more than 21,000 other individuals had their cases dismissed, the U.S. Supreme Court “ruled that due process requires states to return all money and property taken from defendants as a consequence of criminal convictions, if those convictions are later invalidated,” the attorneys explained.

“If the Commonwealth is seriously committed to restoring the integrity of the criminal justice system, it will do the right thing, as a matter of constitutional law, basic fairness, and common sense,” Marx said in a statement. “The Commonwealth took millions of dollars from the pockets of people who were wrongfully convicted, and it must now give them their money back.”

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