A Massachusetts prosecutor was disbarred after her failure to disclose exculpatory evidence in a drug theft case planted major doubt in the criminal justice system. Anne Kaczmarek is the first former member of the Massachusetts attorney general’s office to be disbarred, reports Bloomberg Law. Her behavior may have affected thousands of defendants convicted on drug charges. “Thousands of defendants, who otherwise would have been eligible for relief at an earlier date, remained incarcerated during this time,” a court said. John Verner, a former state prosecutor who supervised Kaczmarek, was publicly reprimanded. Kris Foster, a junior former prosecutor, was suspended for one year and one day. “The harm that resulted from the combined misconduct of Verner, Foster, and Kaczmarek cannot be overstated,” the Supreme Judicial Court said in an opinion, saying that “many criminal defendants were found guilty, admitted to sufficient facts, or pleaded guilty because of the AGO’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence.” Almost 25,000 drug convictions in nearly 16,500 cases were dismissed after the Supreme Judicial Court found they were tainted by ex-chemist Sonja Farak’s drug theft and tampering, in addition to the prosecutor misconduct.
Farak's job at the drug lab in Amherst was to evaluate whether substances the state seized were illegal drugs. At some point, Farak started tampering with the drug samples and using them herself. While each attorney’s “misconduct caused great harm, both to the criminal defendants whose cases were corrupted by Farak’s tampering and to the public’s perception of the criminal justice system,” their accountability for the office’s misconduct varies, justices agreed. Kaczmarek “bore the most responsibility” because she was in charge of Farak’s investigation and prosecution, and still failed to disclose exculpatory evidence and lied about it repeatedly, the opinion said. The Supreme Judicial Court typically gives substantial deference to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, which had recommended a three-month suspension for Verner. The justices concluded that “anything more severe than a public reprimand would be inappropriate.” Foster, a newer lawyer, helped Kaczmarek with discovery requests, and in doing so, she failed to ensure the attorney general’s office had reviewed a case file containing exculpatory evidence.