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ACLU Applauds Charges Against Former Prosecutors In Drug Lab Scandal

Sonja Farak is led from Hampshire Superior Court in 2014 after pleading guilty and getting sentenced to charges of tampering with drug evidence while she worked at the state lab in Amherst.
Don Treeger
/
The Republican / masslive.com/photos
Sonja Farak is led from Hampshire Superior Court in 2014 after pleading guilty and getting sentenced to charges of tampering with drug evidence while she worked at the state lab in Amherst.

Advocates for the wrongfully convicted are applauding charges against three assistant attorneys general connected to a drug lab scandal in western Massachusetts.

The former prosecutors have been charged with misconduct by the state agency that oversees attorneys. They're accused of withholding evidence related to Sonja Farak, a state chemist convicted of using the narcotics she was supposed to be testing.

Matt Segal is legal director for the Massachusetts ACLU, which helped overturn thousands of convictions on the basis of Farak's behavior.

"But what we haven't seen, until now, are proceedings aimed at holding individual lawyers accountable for their actions," Segal said. "Prosecutors wield tremendous power in our criminal legal system, and when they wield that that power improperly, they can cause real harm."

An attorney for one of the former prosecutors told The Boston Globe that his client should not be held responsible for a systemic failure in the justice system.

While Segal agrees that institutions should be held accountable for wrongful convictions, he said, "It's equally true to say that individuals should be accountable for what they've done, particularly when they've harmed thousands of people, as has happened here."

If the charges against the lawyers stick, discipline could range from admonishment to losing their law license.

A public hearing on the charges has not yet been scheduled.

Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998. Her features and documentaries have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, Third Coast Audio Festival Award, and the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.
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