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BadChemistry

Annie Dookhan And The Massachusetts Drug Lab Crisis

Recent Brockton Violence Is Linked To Drug Lab Crisis

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BROCKTON, Mass. — BROCKTON, Mass. — The debate over the state drug lab crisis is particularly heated in this city. Three violent crimes in Brockton are linked to defendants who were released because of the crisis.

The most recent incident was the brazen daytime murder of 45-year-old Charles Evans, who was found shot several times in a driveway on Belmont Street last month. It turns out that the accused murderer, who was released because of the drug lab problems, was arrested a few months before the murder on other charges — and released again.

Just eight months before Evans’ murder, 22-year-old Donta Hood was released from prison after serving three years of a five-year sentence on cocaine charges. His case was dismissed because Annie Dookhan tested the drug evidence. Dookhan is the former state chemist accused of falsifying drug tests.

Donta Hood, seen here in a booking photo, is accused of a Brockton murder -- months after being released early from prison amid the lab crisis. (Courtesy)

Donta Hood, seen here in a booking photo, is accused of a Brockton murder — months after being released early from prison amid the lab crisis. (Courtesy)

Brockton Police Chief Emmanuel Gomes says the lab scandal is frustrating his entire department.

“Police officers for the most part have this frustration with the revolving door of justice. With the scandal the door has picked up speed,” Gomes said. “It’s not just a Brockton thing. These people will be released into communities and they will re-offend; some were habitual offenders so they’re not not going to re-offend.”

Hood was quickly accused of re-offending, even before he was charged with Evans’ murder. Just four months after his release from prison because of the Dookhan-related case, Hood was arrested in Wareham on charges of having an unlicensed loaded gun. Hood initially posted $500 bail but didn’t show up for his arraignment. A few weeks later he did show up and posted $2,500 bail.

Some Brockton residents are outraged and say a dangerousness hearing should have been held. Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz says his office had asked for a higher bail.

“All we can do is ask for bail,” he said. “Unfortunately he made his bail that was set after he had not shown up on his original bail. But at the end of the day I don’t blame anybody for the murder of Mr. Evans other than those who shot and killed Mr. Evans.”

Mr. Evans also was no stranger to police. He was facing charges of attempted murder and witness intimidation at the time of his death.

And Evans is not the only tragedy in Brockton involving a drug lab case. Twenty-one-year-old Malcom Desir, of Brockton, had his drug case dismissed in March. He now faces charges in a shootout with State Police last month. Three months after 23-year-old Teshawn Leslie had his drug charges dropped, he was found murdered in his car in Brockton.

City public safety advocates are concerned.

“It is a definite issue with public safety because as we know the scandal or the crisis; we’re in the middle of it,” said John Messia, who leads the public safety campaign for the Brockton Interfaith Community. He’s been working on safety because the violent crime rate in Brockton is among the highest of all urban areas of Massachusetts.

Messia says the drug lab crisis has prompted the formation of more neighborhood watch groups, but the real problem, he says, is that there are not enough services in the city to help people once they’ve served their sentences.

“You’re seeing people released without enough focus and reviewing the cases individually,” Messia said. “What do they have to return to? Do they have transitional services? Different ways and programs to not fall back in the same lifestyle that put them there in the first place.”

Others in Brockton say despite the violence allegedly linked to drug lab cases, you can’t blame the lab.

“I don’t think the drug lab is a problem at all. I hope they all get out,” said the Rev. Michael Walker of the Messiah Baptist Church. He says the problem with drugs and crime in Brockton is bigger than the lab and won’t be properly addressed by the increased patrols promised by police.

“Rather than focus on the drug lab, which is the lowest hanging fruit,” Walker said, “we need to focus on this unjust war on drugs. Why not focus on preventing and solving serious crimes in this community?”

State public safety officials say since the drug lab problems were first identified last summer, 325 people have been released from incarceration. One unofficial estimate is that more than 30 defendants were released in Plymouth County, where Brockton is located.

Attorney Jason Benzakin is a point person for litigating many of the drug lab cases in the county. He says the pace of releasing defendants has slowed. And he’s concerned that the recent spate of violence could delay things even further.

“Because of the substantial impact of Annie Dookhan on a lot of these cases and individuals, it might seem like there’s one source to look at to say, ‘Hey, she’s responsible and now look what’s happening’,” Benzakin said. “At the same time if you look at each of these individuals alone there’s a real question about whether justice was achieved in their cases. Our concern about individuals committing new offenses I don’t think should come into consideration.”

As for Hood, he’s scheduled to appear in court on the murder charges Friday.

Hood’s lawyer, Lefteris Travayiakis, says Hood looks forward to his day in court and there is a lot more to the case that will come forward once the allegations are thoroughly investigated.

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