- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts’ highest court is calling for a wider investigation into the case of a former chemist who pleaded guilty in 2014 to tampering with evidence at a state crime lab.

In a pair of rulings Wednesday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said law enforcement officials need to get a better handle on the case of Sonja Farak, who also pleaded guilty to stealing drugs and drug possession. It is crucial that the state take another, more in-depth look at the Farak case, the court said.

The rulings came in the cases of two men prosecuted in Hampden County courthouses on drug-related charges in the years preceding Farak’s admission of guilt.

“It is imperative that the Commonwealth thoroughly investigate the timing and scope of Farak’s misconduct at the Amherst drug lab in order to remove the cloud that has been cast over the integrity of the work performed at that facility, which has serious implications for the entire criminal justice system,” Justice Francis Spina wrote for the full court.

The court ordered the state to report back in a month to say whether it will conduct an investigation. If so, the investigation must begin immediately and “be completed in an expeditious manner,” the court said.

The court ruled that if the state decides not to conduct a wider review - and where an individual defendant’s drug samples have already been destroyed - a judge may allow the retesting of “randomly selected drug samples that were tested by Farak and are still in existence in an effort to determine whether evidence of tampering can be identified and to establish the time frame of Farak’s misconduct.”

An aide to Attorney General Maura Healey defended the prosecution of Farak by Healey’s predecessor - former Attorney General Martha Coakley - and said the office is in the process of reviewing the high court’s rulings.

“Our office conducted a thorough criminal investigation into Farak’s misconduct at the Amherst lab and, as a result, she was sentenced to jail for her crimes,” Healey spokeswoman Emalie Gainey added in a written statement Wednesday.

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