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SJC Hears Arguments On Fate Of 24,000 Cases Linked To Criminal Chemist

ROXBURY (CBS/AP) – The state's highest court heard arguments Wednesday about the fate of thousands of cases that may have been tainted by disgraced state chemist Annie Dookhan.

Public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued before the State Supreme Judicial Court for the mass dismissal of roughly 24,000 criminal cases in which Dookhan may have tampered with the drug test results.

They want the court to vacate convictions or other adverse results in all cases in which Dookhan was either the primary or secondary chemist on samples sent to the state lab by local police departments.

The state argued Wednesday that those affected can come forward and ask that their case be reviewed, claiming not every case Dookhan worked on was tainted.

Prosecutors claim they can handle tens of thousands of appeals one-by-one, but the ACLU and public defenders say that process would take several years.

Dookhan has already completed a three-year prison sentence for tampering with evidence and falsifying drug tests in criminal cases. But many of the defendants whose drug samples she handled still haven't gotten their day in court to challenge their convictions.

The SJC rejected a similar proposal for a blanket dismissal of cases in 2015.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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