Sunday, September 23, 2012

Attorneys laud man picked to review drug lab cases

The attorney chosen to review cases at a Massachusetts state drug lab enveloped in scandal is a man of integrity who brings experience working both sides of cases, colleagues said.

Gov. Deval Patrick chose David Meier to lead the investigation of 34,000 criminal cases possibly linked to drug samples allegedly mishandled by a lab chemist who has resigned.

drug lab enveloped
Meier, now a defense attorney and partner at Boston law firm Todd & Weld, was a county prosecutor for 20 years, including 12 years as the chief homicide investigator in the Suffolk District Attorney’s office.

"He brings a level of integrity to the process that is desperately needed," said David Frank, a writer at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly and a former state prosecutor who worked in Suffolk's gang unit when Meier headed the homicide team. "David's been a prominent figure in the criminal justice system for a long time."

Max Stern, president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Meier is the right man for the job because both prosecutors and defense lawyers know and trust him.

"He has the energy and the ability to do the job," Stern said. "And, perhaps more than anything, he has the confidence of all the players in the field."

Fellow attorneys also cite Meier's work reversing wrongful convictions in the 1990s and 2000s. Meier helped overturn multiple convictions while heading Suffolk's homicide unit, after learning information that questioned defendants' guilt or whether they had received a fair trial.

Donnell Johnson had served three years for the 1994 fatal shooting of a 9-year-old boy when investigators received information that led to his release. Meier then headed a new investigation that led to two men entering guilty pleas.

Johnson's attorney, Stephan Hrones, said Meier was trustworthy and "very well thought of as a prosecutor."

Defense attorney Stephen Weymouth has known Meier since the mid-1980s and argued a handful of cases against him.

"He is, in my opinion, a really good lawyer, and he's a really good guy," Weymouth said.

Meier told reporters Thursday his role is not to decide the outcome of the cases or advocate for prosecutors or defense attorneys.

"I stand before you today as an advocate for fairness and due process in the criminal justice system," he said.

By Lindsey Anderson, The Associated Press



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