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One for the record books? A mass dismissal of wrongful convictions

"[I]t remains somewhat of a mystery," states one national media report that recently chronicled the flatly notable and admittedly bizarre story involving a so-called "rogue lab chemist" whose conduct is now impacting the criminal justice system in one state in a monumental way.

The tale is highly instructive in the criminal law realm, we believe, and we pass along its essential details to readers of our defense blog across Missouri and elsewhere.

In a nutshell, the bottom line regarding what transpired last week in a Massachusetts courthouse is this: multiple prosecutors from across the state dropped an astounding 21,000-plus cases against low-level drug offenders in matters involving that chemist's input.

And here's why, according to an NBC News account: "She admitted to tampering with evidence, forging test results and lying about it."

Prosecutors from a number of counties delivered formal responses to a judge concerning cases they are now willing to drop and others they still want to pursue.

The "others" category is infinitesimally small. In fact, an attorney from one district voiced his intent to retain a single case, while dropping 1,067 others.

The mass dismissal is understandably turning heads across the country, with the above-cited news report indicating that it could be "perhaps the biggest ever" to occur in the United States.

Some of the details surrounding the chemist's intent and motivations still remain unclear. No ambiguity attaches at all, though, to the downsides that have been suffered by the large number of drug defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes over the years in Massachusetts owing to the flawed evidence and forgeries linked with the chemist.

Evidence in a criminal law matter is subjective and open to interpretation pending a proven defense attorney's thorough vetting of it and attendant demand that it be established beyond any reasonable doubt by a prosecutor.

And as the above-noted case makes crystal clear, state's evidence that is offered against a defendant in any given case is anything but infallible. In fact, it can be patently erroneous and lead to appallingly unjust results.

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