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Criminal Justice

Delays in probable cause hearings blamed on drug lab; lawyer calls process a ‘joke’

Posted Apr 15, 2014 5:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A lawyer in Lowell, Mass., is expressing frustration with probable cause hearings that can be delayed for months as prosecutors await crime lab results.

Lawyer Christopher Spring called the delays a “joke” in court last week, the Lowell Sun reports. He elaborated in an interview with the newspaper.

"Probable-cause hearing dates in district court are an absolute joke and will remain so until judges decide to hold prosecutors accountable," Spring said. "It is an epic failure on the part of district court judges for refusing to insist that prosecutors do their jobs and conduct probable-cause hearings."

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan has said the delays are caused by a backlog of drug cases caused by the shutdown of the Hinton State Lab after discovery of thousands of corrupted samples. Just one chemist was convicted in the scandal, but other chemists there have not been assigned because of an ongoing investigation and the need for additional training, State Police spokesman David Procopio told the Lowell Sun.

Now fewer people are processing drug samples, causing delays of several months, Procopio said. Ryan said wait times can be as long as nine months to a year.

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