Decision

Decision Committee for Public Counsel Services & others vs. Attorney General & others

Date: 10/11/2018
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Committee for Public Counsel Services & others vs. Attorney General & others
Supreme Judicial Court, October 11, 2018
(Drug Lab/Farak)

 After an evidentiary hearing before Judge Carey  during the Farak litigation, the petitioners sought relief  through a petition pursuant to G. L. c. 211, § 3, and G. L. c. 231A, § 1. The single justice reserved and reported the matter to the full court, and issued three questions for the parties to answer in their briefs.

 Reported Question #1:

Whether the defendants in some or all of the 'third letter' cases are entitled to have their convictions vacated, and the drug charges against them dismissed with prejudice, given the undisputed misconduct of the assistant Attorneys General found by Judge Carey in Commonwealth vs. Erick Cotto, Hampden Sup. Ct., No. 2007-770 (June 26, 2017) (memorandum and order on postconviction motions), and given the conduct of the District Attorneys that the petitioners allege was improper.

 Answer:              

The question is moot, as there are no remaining "third letter" defendants.

Reported Questions #2:

Whether the definition of 'Farak defendants' being employed by the District Attorneys in this case is too narrow; specifically, based on the material in the record of this case, whether the appropriate definition of the class should be expanded to include all defendants who pleaded guilty to a drug charge, admitted to sufficient facts on a drug charge, or were found guilty of a drug charge, if the alleged drugs were tested at the Amherst Laboratory during Farak's employment there, regardless [of] whether Farak was the analyst or signed the certificates in their cases.

 Answer:              

The class of "Farak defendants" includes all defendants who pleaded guilty to a drug charge, admitted to sufficient facts on a drug charge, or were found guilty of a drug charge, where (i) Farak signed the certificate of analysis; (ii) the conviction was based on methamphetamine and the drugs were tested during Farak's tenure at the Amherst lab; or (iii) the drugs were tested at the Amherst lab on or after January 1, 2009, and through January 18, 2013, regardless of who signed the certificate of analysis.

 Reported Question #3:

Whether, as the petitioners request, the record in this case supports the court's adoption of additional prophylactic measures to address future cases involving widespread prosecutorial misconduct, and whether the court would adopt any such measures in this case.

 Answer:              

Prophylactic measures are appropriate based on the record in this case. We recommend that this court's standing advisory committee on the rules of criminal procedure propose amendments to Rule 14 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure to include a Brady checklist and any other modifications the committee believes would be beneficial, consistent with this opinion.

 “The matter is remanded to the county court for entry of a declaratory judgment, as set forth in this opinion, vacating and dismissing the drug convictions of all ‘Farak defendants,’ as defined herein, and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

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