When it came to the work that a chemist at a state laboratory in Boston was doing, supervisors should have been looking at far more than the eye-popping quantity routinely churned out.
Instead, they might reasonably have questioned co-workers. Although the chemist’s job was centrally to test and confirm the identity of drugs that would be at issue in criminal cases involving drug possession, drug trafficking and other drug crimes, one fellow employee said that he never once saw Annie Dookhan look into a microscope. Another chemist said that he identified seven different instances in which Dookhan improperly identified a drug. Yet another worker stated that he saw Dookhan weighing drugs without doing any balance check on her scale.
We first reported on the massive fallout now underway in Massachusetts owing to Dookhan’s work at the lab in a blog post earlier this month (please see our September 9 entry).
What was troubling and tense just a few weeks ago is now close to a full-blown crisis owing to the implications for the criminal justice system and an unknown number of people who might currently be incarcerated based upon false evidence. Three high-level officials have been forced to resign in the scandal’s wake, including the state’s public health commissioner.
Dookhan worked nine years at the lab and tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 30,000-plus defendants. More than 1,100 people are presently behind bars in cases where Dookhan was either the primary or secondary chemist.
“Her actions totally turned the system on its head,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley last week.
Dookhan has already told police that she forged the initials of co-workers and on multiple occasions deliberately labeled a sample as a narcotic even when she knew it was not.
Because cases such as Dookhan’s are not confined to any particular area and are capable of occurring in any state in the country, including in Georgia, they greatly concern criminal defense attorneys everywhere.
We will keep readers informed of material developments in this matter as they occur.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Massachusetts chemist arrested in lab scandal,” Sept. 28, 2012
- Stories such as the one described in this post are flatly alarming. Drug charges are serious matters that can bring long prison sentences, and a criminal defendant must have assurances that the criminal justice system is fundamentally fair in its operation. For information on the strong advocacy our firm brings to persons facing drug charges, please visit our Georgia Possession with Intent to Distribute Drugs page.