FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) -- Nearly 200 inmates were released from Massachusetts prisons this week amid the scandal at the state's drug lab, though their release doesn't mean they've been exonerated.
Instead, the state must spend even more money to rebuild their cases.
Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter is calling the situation a debacle, perhaps the worst he's seen in the time he's been practicing law, and it's adding up to an expensive one for the state of Massachusetts.
For months now, the alleged mishandling of evidence inside of this Massachusetts drug lab has sent ripple effects throughout the state. A chemist at the lab, Annie Dookhan, is accused of tampering with drug evidence that could call as many as 34,000 cases into question, 5,000 of which are in Bristol County.
Sutter tells us that about ten of the cases resulted in reduced sentences, but it's what's to come that may truly test the court system.
"The cases involving incarcerated defendants have been heard," he said. "I hope it's not a tidal wave, if those 4,700 cases are reopened that's going to be a situation which does risk overwhelming us."
Unfortunately, much of that is yet to be determined.
So how much will the alleged acts of one woman cost the state of Massachusetts? We crunched the numbers and found that the public counsel is asking for $322 million, the mayor of Boston is asking for $15 million, DA offices $13-14 million, and the trial courts are asking for $15 million, which totals out to $365 million. It's unclear at this time what funds will be released.
"I think it's the biggest catastrophe, from an administrative standpoint, in the criminal justice system since I got out of law school and moved back to Massachusetts in 1983."
Sutter also tells us they've already put together a team to deal with the drug lab cases, and he's hopeful that they'll receive the resources needed to move forward.
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Ted Nesi reads this morning's coverage about Rhode Island's top paper so you don't have to.
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