, Gloucester, MA

October 25, 2012

Editorial: City police should be ready to revisit crime lab cases

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Any Gloucester and Cape Ann fallout triggered by the handiwork of ousted chemist Annie Dookhan and the Jamaica Plain state crime lab debacle will most affect the Essex County District Attorney’s office, which will have to return to court to address the challenges raised by defense attorneys whose clients were convicted based on tainted evidence.

And it will be some time before the impact on any cases that have run through Gloucester District Court are known. While the first Essex County case linked to the drug lab disaster – a cocaine and firearms cas involving a Lynn man — was set to be heard Wednesday in Salem Superior Court, Essex County DA’s spokeswoman Carrie Kimball-Monahan said the court will work its way through allegedly tainted Superior Court level cases first, hen hear the district court level cases, including any such cases from Gloucester District Court.

So it’s understandable that new Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello hasn’t yet been given a sense of how many cases involving his department might be connected to this judicial calamity.

But with an estimated 64,000 tainted drug samples now subject to investigation – and with 8,451 of those now confirmed as being out of Essex County, according to DA Jonathan Blodgett’s office – it seems inevitable that a number of those will have, in one way or another, involved Gloucester’s court, whether the cases are tied to local users or dealers, or out-of-town dealers who were nabbed for selling in Gloucester, made a brief appearance in Gloucester District Court and then had their cases bumped up to Superior Court in Salem.

With that in mind, Chief Campanello and Gloucester’s detectives should indeed be preparing for how they will handle any such cases, and what they can do — perhaps through providing additional evidence beyond the drug samples — to help keep these street predators where they belong.

The surfacing of the drug lab sample comes at a particularly galling time for Gloucester residents, who have seen their police department seemingly make significant dents in the city’s drug trade over the past two months. That’s included a pursuit and bust that nabbed one allegedly high-volume dealer from Chelsea trading around Burnham’s Field in September, and a followup arrest of both that same man – out on bail and back in business — and a Salem accomplice just 10 days later.

But while any lab-tainted samples would have been processed long before that, the idea of a past convicted dealer being freed back onto Gloucester’s streets would be a disheartening setback for all who have worked hard to send the message that Gloucester is getting tough on drugs — and getting tougher every day.

Let’s hope all parties get a firm grip soon on the numbers of local cases involved — and that police are at the ready to help press these cases again, so justice can once again prevail.