A Massachusets crime lab has been shut down after a chemist involved in testing more than 50,000 samples for cases involving more than 34,000 defendants was found to have used improper testing protocols. Throwing into question the validity of case evidence and convictions.
This situation highlights the grey area of the justice system and why it is important to hire competent legal representation. A professional lawyer will explore all aspects of your case to make sure procedures were handled correctly and legally. It also shows that just because the crime lab has evidence against a suspect that the evidence is not above tampering.
If you look through our Drug Crime Successes you will see a trend of investigating the investigators and holding the system accountable.
The chemist at the center of a scandal that shut down a state crime lab was involved in testing more than 50,000 drug samples, raising the possibility of an enormous number of legal challenges from people convicted or awaiting trial.
Lists of drug samples handled by the chemist since 2003 were turned over to public defenders and prosecutors Tuesday, five days after state police shut down the lab. Anne Goldbach, forensic services director for the state’s public defender agency, said the lists of more than 50,000 samples show which cases the chemist handled during her nine-year tenure at the lab.
“It is absolutely huge, and it’s going to be a tremendous amount of work — both for prosecutors as well as defense attorneys — to find these individuals and make sure justice is done,” Goldbach said.
State police spokesman David Procopio said Wednesday the samples were tested in cases involving about 34,000 defendants. Many defendants had multiple samples at the lab for testing.
Gov. Deval Patrick ordered the lab closed after an investigation revealed that the chemist had not followed proper testing protocols.
Procopio said the investigation shows that the problems went beyond sloppiness and in some cases involved deliberately mishandling drug evidence.
“We’ve responded quickly and affirmatively — in the course of less than a week we have shut down the lab, suspended two supervisors while the investigation is ongoing, determined the number of cases the chemist handled and provided that number to the DAs and defense bar, began a review of the lab operations, and continued our investigation into the chemist for potential criminality,” Procopio said Wednesday.
State police have not fully explained how the protocol violations may have tainted test results, or how many of the cases might actually be affected.
Authorities have not identified the chemist, but in a letter sent to a public defender in Norfolk County, a prosecutor identified her as Annie Dookhan. She has not responded to repeated requests for comment, but her husband has said she’s being scapegoated.
The Boston lab was involved in certifying drug samples in cases submitted by local police from around the state. It was run by the state Department of Public Health until July 1, when state police took over the operation as part of a budget directive.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys who received the lists of samples handled by Dookhan say it will be a daunting task to go through them, figure out whether evidence was mishandled and, if so, how to deal with it.
“It’s very labor-intensive to get into our files and figure out the nature of each and every case and what the (chemist’s) involvement was,” said Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, who estimates from the lists that Dookhan was involved in testing between 1,600 and 2,000 drug samples from his region.
“We’re going to try and seek some additional information and see if we can have a fuller understanding of what the actions of this individual were and then make some determinations with respect to these many, many cases should be dealt with,” O’Keefe said.
“Nothing could be more important than to get to the bottom of this and to make sure that in any cases — particularly those in which somebody was incarcerated — that they had a fair trial.”
A message was left Wednesday at Dookhan’s home in Franklin. In a statement issued last week, her husband said she maintains her innocence and that “more than one person was involved in botching a drug procedure.”
“We believe it’s co-workers who are trying to create a scapegoat,” he said.
State police said Dookhan resigned in March during an internal investigation by the Department of Public Health.
Although it is unclear how many drug samples were mishandled, the chemist’s credibility has now been called into question on all her work, Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said.
“Once you bring a person’s credibility into play — someone who gives us evidence — it’s just a shock to the whole system,” Early said.
Goldbach said her agency, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, has sent more than 2,000 emails to public defenders, court-appointed attorneys and private criminal defense lawyers explaining what they know and suggesting that lawyers consider filing bail appeals and discovery motions in pending cases. The agency also plans to send an information packet to lawyers on how to handle cases in which defendants have been convicted in cases in which Dookhan was involved in drug testing.
“We await additional details of exactly what happened; we’re still waiting for that,” Goldbach said.
Another potential complication is that it is unclear whether retesting drug samples will be enough, since protocol violations might call into question the sanctity of the samples themselves.
“That’s a huge question right now,” Goldbach said. “We suspect that re-testing will not undo the taint.”
10.0 Superb Rating
AVVO Criminal Defense
AV-Highest Rated Preeminent Lawyers
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Criminal & DUI Defense
Top 1% Attorney
National Association of Distinguished Counsel
Top 100 Trial Lawyers
American Trial Lawyers Association
Top 10 DUI/DWI Law Firm
American Institute of DUI / DWI Attorneys
Client Satisfaction Award
American Institute of DUI / DWI Attorneys
Top 100 Lawyer
American Society of Legal Advocates
National College for DUI Defense
Top 10 Attorney
National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys
DUI Defense Lawyers Association
Best Attorneys of America
American Bar Foundation
Arizona Trial Lawyers Association
America's Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys
American Association for Justice
Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice
Superior DUI Attorney
National Advocacy for DUI Defense
2019 Litigator of the Year
American Institute of Trial Lawyers
Member Since 1989
American Bar Association
Voted #1 DUI Team (2020)