Could Prosecutorial and Forensics Misconduct Bankrupt Massachusetts?

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

Just last month, a judge ruled in the Annie Dookin forensics lab scandal that rocked Massachusetts’ criminal justice system that prosecutors had to decide which cases to retry. The remaining cases would then be dismissed and convictions overturned. Could the cost of these wrongful convictions bankrupt the state?

By C J Oakes

The scandal involving Annie Dookin has resulted in a record mass-exoneration of over 21,578 drug cases. But that is not all. In an unrelated case involving another forensic examiner in the western part of the state, Sonja Farak admitted to using the drugs she was to test. Making the matter worse, it appears that prosecutors knew of the abuse and helped cover it up.

What is the Cost of Wrongful Convictions in Massachusetts?

English: Blotter
English: Blotter (Photo credit: Wikipedia). I cannot help but wonder if Farak ever came across LSD like the one shown here? If so, the joke is no longer on her, but the entire state of Massachusetts.

Resulting from the work done by the Innocence Project, many states have passed laws which pay victims of wrongful convictions. Massachusetts passed such a law in 2004. The law allows for payments up to $500,000 if wrongfully convicted of a felony. So, the 21,578 wrongful convictions just admitted by state prosecutors have the potential of costing the state up to $10,789,000,000 (yes, that is billions with a B). But that is not all.

The case involving Annie Dookin covered a span of ONLY five years. Sonja Farak was smoking crack, taking uppers, LSD, ecstasy, and more both on the job and at home courtesy of Massachusetts law enforcement for eight to nine years. It can be safely assumed that all cases handled during that time will be overturned. How many cases will that be?

We cannot say because the courts have yet to release that information related to Farak, but if we assume that Dookin handled 24,000 cases in five years, we can assume Farak handled approximately the same number. Thus, Dookin handled 4,800 cases per year. Multiply that figure by, oh, let’s be conservative and say 8 years for Farak. This will amount to 38,400 cases.

Now, the number of cases handled by Dookin that prosecutors felt merited retrial came to 1.5% of the total. Let us assume the same with Farak.

This means that 38,400 X 98.5% = 37,824 cases we can expect to be overturned in the Farak scandal. Assuming up to $500,000 per case and the state is potentially looking at another $18,912,000,000 in payouts to exonerated citizens.

Adding these figures together, we arrive at $29,701,000,000. Per Google, the GDP of Massachusetts is $351.5 billion (351,500,000,000). Therefore, these two cases of wrongful convictions will not bankrupt the state because they only amount to 8.5% of the GDP.

ONLY 8.5% of Massachusetts GDP or Less to Cover Cost of Wrongful Convictions

A solution of Lysergic acid diethylamide (a.k....
A solution of Lysergic acid diethylamide (a.k.a. LSD), seized by US authorities. ( cropped a bit by User:MER-C) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, it should be noted that not all of the cases overturned would have been felonies and not all will result in the maximum payout. Then too, it should be noted that there are other costs associated with civil trials and the exonerations not accounted for in these figures. The cost to the state will likely be way higher. But, let us assume for a moment that this is the exact figure. What does it mean?

First, it means that the state will not be bankrupted by the wrongful convictions. That is good news. Now the bad news.

To bring it into better focus, the almost $30 billion pricetag will amount to each citizen of the state of Massachusetts paying about $4,451 each. Just because two people screwed up royally and elected officials hushed it up.

Shucks. That is a small price to pay to ensure the drug war keeps finding guilty parties so go on Massachusetts, keep convicting wrongfully. You can afford it.

President, Publisher at Oakes Media Group
C J Oakes is an author and freelance writer from Lubbock, TX, USA. In addition to this website, he operates and

As an author, he has numerous books to his credit including the best-selling Survive and Thrive After the Collapse of the Dollar series. In addition, he has written over a hundred books for clients since 2011 and has created innumerable web pages for law firms and others worldwide.

Passionate about Justice, Mr. Oakes believes that the scales of justice are never balanced, but it is the duty of each citizen to do their part to re-calibrate the scales as needed. When the scales of justice shift too far to one side, they must be returned a near as possible to center.

He built this site with the goal of helping students of criminal justice understand how to apply the principles needed for re-calibrating the scales as well as providing easy access to needed study resources.

Criminal Justice Law International welcomes guest posts and anyone interested in contributing to the goals of the site.

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