60,000 Drug Samples Compromised in Crime Lab Scandal

By JG Vibes

Over the past nine years of her career a Massachusetts chemist named Annie Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples which effected the cases of about 34,000 defendants.

According to a police report obtained by the Associated Press she has recently admitted to faking many drug sample results.

Governor Deval Patrick has identified 1,141 inmates in MA jails and prisons convicted based on evidence handled by Dookhan, who was also the quality control officer in a drug testing lab.

In addition to this crime lab scandal, Dookhan is also accused ofcreating a forged masters degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts, which ultimately got her the high level job in the lab.

Dookhan was arrested by State Police yesterday morning at her home in Franklin, Massachusetts, but is expected to post her $10,000 bail by the end of the week. Once free on bail, she must turn over her passport and wear a GPS monitoring device.

She can have no contact with her former colleagues and must be in her house from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.  She has been charged two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of falsifying her academic records.  Judge Mark Summerville set another hearing for Dec. 3

There were many signs of this misconduct throughout the course of her employment in this particular lab, but nothing was investigated until last year when her coworkers at the Department of Public Health lab told State Police that they would not testify under oath about the results of drug tests she performed.

Prior to that in 2004 she whipped through some 9,239 samples while her colleagues averaged only one-third that number.

Last year, the Department of Public Health found out about what she was doing, but downplayed it, telling superiors that errors had occurred on only one day and had only affected 90 cases. The department also waited six months before alerting police and prosecutors to the problem.

Assistant Attorney General John Varner said Dookhan later acknowledged to state police that she sometimes would take 15 to 25 samples and instead of testing them all, she would test only five of them, then list them all as positive.

She said that sometimes, if a sample tested negative, she would take known cocaine from another sample and add it to the negative sample to make it test positive for cocaine.

The fallout from this case has already started to begin, as the lab has already been shut down and more members of the lab are stating to resign.  Dozens of inmates have already been released, and many more releases are expected to come.

Now with all of the cases that she was responsible for prosecutors must prove that substances seized by police are scientifically proven to be illegal drugs and that they have not been tampered with between arrest and trial, an impossible feat because the samples have now admittedly been tampered with.