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Man Indicted For Murder Among Those Challenging Convictions In Drug Lab Scandal

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BOSTON (AP) — More defendants are expected to challenge their convictions this week based on a testing scandal at a Massachusetts drug lab, including a man currently under indictment for murder and another man who served time behind bars for killing a neighborhood cat and burning its remains.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge is hearing requests for sentences to be put on hold and to set bail for defendants currently serving prison sentences in cases in which chemist Annie Dookhan tested suspected drugs.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Carl Stevens reports

Dookhan is accused of skirting protocols and faking drug test results at a now-closed state lab. She has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice charges.

Anthony Thames, 29, is charged with murder for allegedly shooting a man in Boston’s South End neighborhood in August 2011. Shortly after his arrest, he pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing cocaine and is currently serving a five-year sentence.

Thames is scheduled to appear Monday via videoconference from the state prison in Shirley to ask the judge to toss out his drug conviction because of Dookhan’s participation in testing the drugs in his case. He is awaiting trial in a separate case that charges him with shooting Raymond Lamar, 33, of Boston. He is being held without bail in the murder case.

Luigi Epifania, 29, of East Boston, who is serving five years on a 2011 drug conviction for possession with intent to distribute OxyContin and distribution of heroin, is also scheduled to appear in court via videoconference Monday. Prosecutors said he was convicted in 2007 for beating a man with a frying pan during a separate drug deal and for killing a cat, setting it on fire and throwing it through a window.

Last week, Judge Christine McEvoy heard more than 100 cases for defendants convicted of possessing, distributing or trafficking in drugs tested by Dookhan. McEvoy allowed requests to place sentences on hold in most cases, set bail and ordered defendants who posted bail to be monitored by GPS systems and curfews.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, said prosecutors are concerned because many of the defendants being released on bail have previous records.

“Many of these defendants are serving time for their most recent drug offense, but for almost every single one, that follows many previous drug offenses, as well as gun offenses, violent crime and high-level drug distribution,” Wark said.

“Which isn’t to say that it’s appropriate to keep them locked up if the evidence doesn’t support the conviction. That’s why we’re assenting to many of these stays of sentences, but we can’t forget who these defendants are or the public safety threat they impose when they are returned to the streets.”

Later court hearings will be held to decide on how to deal with the cases.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

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