CRIME LAB MISCONDUCT

In Commonwealth v. Gaston the Court of Appeals  reversed the denial of a motion for new trial in regard to a charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The reversal was based on two grounds: (1) newly discovered evidence, acquired by the defendant after his trial, revealed the flagrant misconduct of state laboratory chemist Annie Dookhan (one of the signers of the defendant’s drug certificate); and (2) the prosecution failed, prior to the trial, to disclose to the defense the problems at the laboratory involving Dookhan. The Court agreed with the defendant’s argument that his inability to gain access  to  evidence  of  “Dookhan’s pervasive and egregious misconduct” until after his trial and the prosecutor’s failure to disclose the misconduct prevented preventing the defendant  from  challenging  her involvement in the process  of analyzing  the drugs.  The Court based its ruling on the reasoning in Commonwealth v. Scott, which is the lead case in a number  of decisions involving challenges to guilty pleas pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 30(b), … on grounds that the pleas were entered neither knowingly nor voluntarily as the result of misconduct by Dookhan. The Court stated that  in “either a common-law claim of newly discovered evidence or a constitutional claim of prosecutorial nondisclosure, the defendant must demonstrate essentially the fulfillment of the same requirement, namely, that there is a ‘substantial risk that the jury would have reached a different conclusion had the evidence been admitted at trial.’” ‘‘The judge need not be convinced that the jury’s verdict would have been different but rather that the evidence would have been a real factor in the jury’s deliberations.”

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