United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG, District Judge.
Habeas Petitioner Dewayne Hampton ("Hampton") seeks post-conviction relief based on the now infamous scandal involving state lab chemist Annie Dookhan ("Dookhan"). Mot. Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence Person Federal Custody, Ex. 1, Mot. Vac. Plea Alternative, Vacate Sentence, Pursuant 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Def. Br."), ECF No. 91-1. This case presents an issue of first impression in the growing line of cases resulting from the Dookhan scandal. Hampton does not seek to vacate his guilty plea but instead argues that his Due Process rights were violated because the mandatory minimum sentence imposed on him was based on a quantity of drugs tested and weighed by Dookhan. The Court holds that on this unusual (and thus far, unique) set of facts, Hampton is entitled to relief in the form of resentencing.
A. Factual Background
1. Hampton's Arrest and Testing of Substances
Hampton - along with co-defendants Willie Brown ("Brown") and Ashley Clark ("Clark") - was a member of a drug distribution conspiracy. Opp'n. Dewayne Hampton's Mot. Vacate ("Govt. Br.") 3, ECF No. 93. Between October 2008 and August 2009, a cooperating witness, at the direction of law enforcement agents, allegedly purchased 350 grams of crack cocaine from the three defendants during twenty-one controlled sales. Id. The government avers that Hampton participated directly in twenty of the twenty-one transactions, each of which involved a sale of either a half ounce or a full ounce of crack cocaine. Id. An additional fifty grams of crack cocaine were seized from Hampton's residence during his arrest. Id. at 1.
Of the twenty controlled purchases attributable to Hampton, on at least one occasion law enforcement agents field tested the substances collected, which yielded a positive result for cocaine. Id. at 4. The substances recovered from eighteen of the purchases were tested at the Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain where Dookhan worked (the "state lab"). See id. Of those eighteen samples, Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist for fourteen samples. Id. at 4-5. Two samples were tested by a Drug Enforcement Agency lab. Id. at 4. All tests returned positive results for cocaine. Id.
2. Annie Dookhan
Dookhan worked as a chemist at the state lab from 2003 until 2012. See Def. Br. 7, 11. In June 2011, Dookhan's supervisors discovered she had taken evidence from a safe without authorization, removed ninety drug samples from the office, and forged a co-worker's initials on the evidence log. Supplemental Mem., Ex. A, Investigation Drug Lab. William A. Hinton State Lab. Inst. 2002-2012 ("OIG Report") 63, 65, ECF No. 113-1. The Department of Public Health ("DPH") Director of Laboratory Services reported the incident by letter to the Norfolk District Attorney in February 2012. Id. at 72. Dookhan went on administrative leave in February 2012 and resigned on March 9, 2012. Id. at 73. After further investigation, the lab closed. Id. at 20.
Dookhan was charged in the Massachusetts Superior Court with twenty-nine crimes, including perjury, obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and falsely claiming to hold a degree. Def. Br. 5. In November 2013, Dookhan pled guilty to twenty-seven counts and subsequently was sentenced to three to five years in prison, followed by two years of probation. OIG Report 11. Discovery in the case against Dookhan revealed that she breached lab protocol by, among other things:
Dry-labbing (certifying, without testing, that a substance was the suspected drug);
Placing samples from different cases together on her bench;
"Batching" samples together and testing some but not others;
Intentionally contaminating a sample by using a known drug from a completed test;
Falsifying other chemists' initials on quality control/confirmatory documents;
Falsely certifying having run quality control/confirmatory test samples;
Failing to properly calibrate her scales to ensure the accuracy of the drug weights measured by the chemist; and
Communicating directly with prosecutors about ...