On Thursday, prosecutors in the US state of Massachusetts announced that they will move to dismiss more than 6,000 convictions tied to lab results from a chemist caught stealing and using drugs from the University of Massachusetts Amherst crime lab. In 2014, Sonja Farak pleaded guilty to stealing drugs and tampering with evidence after admitting she ran lab tests while high on an assortment of drugs she’d stolen from the lab. According to The Washington Post, she told investigators she “smoked crack every day at work.”
For eight years, Farak consumed both testing and evidence samples of drugs at the crime lab, including crack cocaine, meth, speed, ketamine, ecstasy and LSD. The Post reports that co-workers noticed samples were missing and found trace samples of crack at her work station. Farak admitted that she’d been using drugs brought into the lab for criminal cases, siphoning small portions of powdered drugs and replacing them with baking powder. Farak covered her tracks by altering the database so they wouldn’t appear missing.
Farak plead guilty, but in testimony noted that her productivity wasn’t affected by her drug use and her coworkers didn’t notice. Surprisingly, they testified the same thing in court: they didn’t notice any change in her behaviour.
While the extent of Farak’s drug use and the cover-up is exceptional, this isn’t the first time thousands of cases have been thrown out over a chemist’s misconduct, at least in America. In April, Massachusetts tossed more than 21,000 cases tied to former chemist, Annie Dookhan. Dookhan admitted to falsifying test results and tampering with evidence. [AP/Washington Post]