BOSTON, Sept. 14, 2012—Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office this week asked that one drug defendant be released without monetary bail but urged a judge to keep another held on high bail as Boston’s prosecutors assess the effects of an investigation at a state drug laboratory on thousands of their cases.
At a previously scheduled pre-trial appearance for EDWARD DANCY (D.O.B. 9/15/70), Assistant District Attorney Macy Lee, chief of the DA’s Narcotics Unit, on Wednesday recommended that Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine Roach reduce Dancy’s bail from $30,000 to personal recognizance. After providing the judge with a copy of Dancy’s prior record, Lee also asked for a 60-day continuance so prosecutors could re-examine the state of the evidence as State Police investigate the actions of the former Department of Public Health chemist who had certified that a substance Dancy allegedly sold to an undercover Boston Police officer in Chinatown in 2010 was cocaine.
Roach granted both motions.
A few hours later, at a video bail review hearing called last week by his attorney, MARCUS PIXLEY (D.O.B. 10/3/60) asked Roach for the same reduction in bail. This time, however, Assistant District Attorney Megan O’Rourke of Conley’s Major Felony Bureau argued against his release.
O’Rourke told the court that, in addition to allegedly selling a different undercover officer cocaine in Boston’s South End in February of last year, Pixley is also under indictment for resisting arrest as a habitual offender and faces a mandatory 2½-year jail term if convicted. That charge does not rest on the drug evidence against him, O’Rourke said, noting that Pixley had already been arrested for violating the terms of his earlier release in this very case and that he had an 11-page record with convictions for rape, armed robbery, and other violent crimes.
Roach reduced Pixley’s $5,000 cash bail to $1,000.
“These two cases highlight the complexity of our situation,” Conley said. “What happened at the Department of Public Health lab was a catastrophic failure and there’s no simple, easy, or one-size-fits-all solution. If someone is held or convicted on tainted evidence, we won’t hesitate to take every appropriate step to bring the case to light and correct the record. But if there are credible facts and evidence to support the legitimacy of an implicated case, we’ll work just as hard to ensure that the defendant is held accountable.”
Conley said prosecutors are examining the facts of each drug case identified so far and reviewing any accompanying charges that would be unaffected by the drug certifications, the defendant’s criminal record and history of defaults, his or her custody status, and other aspects of the docket.
“We didn’t create this crisis, but the state’s prosecutors are taking every step to help correct it,” Conley said. “In the days and weeks to come, we expect to work closely with the state’s other district attorneys, the defense bar, and the Trial Court, but we need state agencies like the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, who have a great deal of relevant stored data, to give us the information we need to identify and prioritize every case and each defendant potentially affected. The DAs, the State Police drug lab, and other agencies, I’m sure, are also going to need significant new resources to handle this massive new workload without grinding the usual business of the criminal justice system to a halt. We can’t allow this failure at the Department of Public Health to compromise the entire criminal justice system.”
The DPH drug lab investigation has already postponed the disposition of at least two cases that would otherwise have been resolved. On Sept. 6, JUAN IRENE (D.O.B. 11/24/60) and LUIS QUILES (D.O.B. 10/29/71) appeared in Suffolk Superior Court for a change-of-plea hearing on a case charging both men with selling heroin to an undercover police officer near the St. Francis House downtown. Instead, Assistant District Attorney Lauren Greene recommended that the court instead postpone the hearing and release both men on their own recognizance.
“As reasons therefore,” Greene wrote in an accompanying motion, “the Commonwealth submits that on August 30, 2012, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security notified the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office of alleged improprieties in the handling of drug evidence by a chemist at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain. Until the Commonwealth receives further information and details regarding that investigation … the Commonwealth will be unable to move for trial. The Commonwealth therefore requests a continuance to gather additional information and evaluate the state of the evidence.”
The court agreed and both men were released. They will return to court in November.
Since Sept. 6, a total of six Suffolk County drug defendants including Dancy, Irene, and Quiles have had their bails reduced to personal recognizance in light of the laboratory investigation. The six range in age from 29 to 43 years of age with offenses in Chinatown, Roxbury, and the South End. Defense counsel for two others have been notified and are expected to appear in the near future. All were charged in Suffolk Superior Court, where the cases of higher-level dealers and defendants with more serious criminal records are prosecuted; as of today, prosecutors have not identified any district court defendants held on bail in cases affected by the investigation.
“We have a duty to hold offenders accountable, but we have an even greater duty to ensure a fair trial and good faith in every proceeding,” Conley said. “We’re going to act in the interests of justice every time, in every case, for every defendant. Sometimes that will mean moving for a defendant’s release. Sometimes it will mean fighting to keep a defendant behind bars. We’ll have many difficult choices ahead of us, but we’re going to make them honestly, fairly, and with integrity.”
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.