Boston – A year after discovering an explosive scandal at a drug lab, Massachusetts is still picking up the pieces. As of September, over 330 prison inmates had been released from custody and at least 1,000 cases had been dismissed or not prosecuted because of either tainted evidence or other issues pertaining to the lab's closure.
Annie Dookhan has been accused of faking test results, tampering with evidence and routinely failing to follow proper testing protocols. With the Boston legal system thrown into turmoil and with thousands of challenges from defense attorneys, the legal community is bracing itself for the long ride ahead. Many are expecting that it could take years before the cases personally handled by Dookhan are cleared.
In mid-August, an attorney appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to help establish a database of Dookhan's cases said that over 40,000 defendants may have been affected, which is 6,000 more than officials initial estimates.
Matthew Segal, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said, "Forget having your day in court, forget having a lawyer – it's taken us this long just to get a number on the number of cases that she tested." Segal also said that it's been very damaging to the integrity of the justice system.
By all accounts, Dookhan, 35, took pride in her reputation as the most productive chemist in the lab, and she ultimately became the go-to person for prosecutors in drug cases. However, prosecutors now figure that Dookhan's reputation was entirely built on fraud. Dookhan told the state police that instead of testing all of the substances turned over to her by the Department of Public Health laboratory; sometimes she would test only a fraction of them but certify all of them as drugs, according to authorities. Dookhan pleaded not guilty and her lawyer had not responded to the requests for comment.
This public scandal lead to the state's public health commissioner's resignation, the resignation of the lab's manager, and the firing of another manager. The catastrophic effects of this case have echoed throughout the state and the state's public defender says that the number of affected cases may even be higher since management and protocol lapses at the lab could have enabled other chemists to veer away from protocol or falsify their results as well. Defense attorneys tend to agree that all test results from the lab over the last ten years should be questioned.
Chemists and lab technicians have a moral obligation to follow strict protocol when testing evidence in criminal cases. It's a scary thought to imagine that one chemist can impact as many as 40,000 criminal cases, but in the case of Annie Dookhan, she has proved that anything is a possibility. At Taylor & Taylor, we are aware that criminal cases frequently hinge on scientific evidence, but we are also aware that scientific evidence can be affected by human error or an outright disregard for justice.
If you have been accused of committing a crime, we urge you to contact a St. Augustine criminal defense attorney from our firm right away. We are always searching for flaws in a prosecutor's case, violations of our clients' constitutional rights and irregular laboratory testing procedures. With all of these defense possibilities in mind and more, we will stop at nothing to fight for your rights.
Contact our office today by calling (888) 387-9958.