Report Finds Former State Drug Lab Chemist Affected More Than 40,000 Cases
As it turns out, the “rogue chemist” that allegedly tampered with drug lab samples, and was caught last year, may have messed up a few thousand more criminal cases than officials originally estimated.
Nearly one year after Governor Deval Patrick shutdown the state’s Hinton crime lab in Jamaica Plain, after former worker Annie Dookhan was arrested for her role in mishandling thousands of drug samples during her time as a chemist, an independent group hired by the governor to sift through records and compile an audit of the criminal cases that may have been affected, revealed that an additional 2,500 cases should be reexamined by officials.
David Meier, a former Suffolk County prosecutor, was in charge of the report, which he handed to Patrick for review on Tuesday. “I have submitted to the governor a final report, as well as an updated and revised master list of 40,000 individuals whose drug samples were associated with drug testing by Annie Dookhan from 2003 to the present,” said Meier.
Originally, the Patrick administration estimated Dookhan’s alleged misconduct impacted roughly 35,000 cases. Meier worked with state leaders and prosecutors and during the task force’s review over the course of 11 months found more. “I plan to sit down with the private bar association… district attorneys and prosecutors, in order to give them the list and provide the list, and do what we can to assist them [with this new information],” he said.
In December of last year, Dookhan, called a “rogue chemist” by Patrick at the time, was indicted on 27 charges, including 17 counts of obstruction of justice and eight counts of tampering with evidence, stemming from her misconduct at the Hinton lab, which was brought to light a few months prior.
Doohkan originally admitted to officials that she had tampered with the evidence, or did “dry labbing,” faking the results, over a nine year span dating back to 2003, in order to be seen as a productive worker. Dookhan pleaded not guilty in court to charges, however, and recently asked that her confession be tossed out.
Defendants who were incarcerated because of evidence handled by Dookhan have at times been let out of jail by judges because of the new questions over the evidence. Around 200 statewide were let out of jail, 80 of which were in Boston. Some defense attorneys have argued that all of the evidence from the lab where Dookhan worked should be called into question, according to the State House News Service.
Doohkan’s alleged misconduct also led to legislative changes, including handing over the responsibility of the state drug labs to police, rather than the Department of Public Health, and later lead to the resignation of a top elected official, John Auerbach, the department’s commissioner during Doohkan’s employment with the state.