Mass. Drug Lab Chemist Arrested
Massachusetts drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was arrested today on charges of obstruction of justice and lying about her educational degrees. She faces up to 20 years in prison.
Dookan has been the subject of a huge lab scandal in Mass. She tested over 60,000 samples in 34,000 cases over 9 years. She has admitted intentionally faking results. More than 1,100 inmates are still serving time in cases in which she performed or assisted in the drug tests. The lab has since been closed.
The only motive authorities have found so far is that Dookhan wanted to be seen as a good worker, the state attorney general said.
The picture emerging is that of a rogue laboratory that operated without checking and retesting, enforced protocols or measures taken to test those doing the testing.
She didn't operate in a vacuum.
The state police report obtained by WBUR details witness statements that say assistant district attorneys would call Dookhan directly to look up data, a circumvention of protocols that dictated prosecutors and police should go through the evidence office of the drug lab.
Suffolk County prosecutors are said to have asked for Dookhan by name. One associate says Dookhan would get calls on her cellphone from assistant district attorneys — no other chemist got such calls.
There are calls for a special prosecutor to conduct the investigation, instead of Attorney General Martha Coakley:
Some defense attorneys argue the most recent revelations bolster the need for Coakley to appoint a special prosecutor in the interest of transparency and appearance.
“I think the entire laboratory’s communications with prosecutors and police should be turned over,” (Former MA Bar President Ed] Ryan said. “If there is any DA’s office that has email exchanges with anyone at that lab – and particularly Annie Dookhan — those need to be turned over.
“Let’s see who the assistant DAs were. I think any assistant district attorney who asked for her personally needs to be interviewed to determine what the relationship was,” Ryan continued. “Why were they asking for Annie Dookhan specifically? And what did they want? We need to get to the bottom of what was going on.”
Special courts are being set up to review the cases. It could cost Mass. taxpayers over a million dollars.
This is clearly bigger than Dookan:
The 100-page State Police report characterizes a lab rife with suspicion about Dookhan’s shoddy work habits and unusually high output. Supervisors largely stood by her for more than a year, the report said, despite evidence that Dookhan had lied on her resume and removed drug evidence without authorization.
As a result, the convictions and pending charges of thousands of suspects hang in the balance.
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