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Police evidence routinely falsified by lab technician; 34,000 drug cases may have been falsified

Friday, October 05, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: police, lab technician, falsified evidence

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(NaturalNews) "I messed up bad."

That's what Annie Dookhan, a former Massachusetts state chemist at the heart of a state drug lab scandal, told investigators when they discovered what she had done.

It could be the understatement of the year.

Dookhan has admitted she improperly removed evidence from storage, forged the signatures of colleagues and did not conduct proper tests on drugs for "two or three years," according to a copy of a State Police report obtained by the Boston Globe newspaper recently.

In addition, the report says, Dookhan fessed up to recording drug tests as positive when they were really negative "a few times," while at other times testing only a small sample of a drug batch she was tasked with analyzing.

Her admitted malfeasance, authorities speculate, could have jeopardized evidence in some 34,000 drug cases.

So much for her explanation that she only did such things "a few times."

Supervisors alerted, but took virtually no action

"I messed up. I messed up bad. It's my fault," she reportedly told the state troopers who visited her home on Aug. 28, adamant that she acted alone.

"I don't want the lab to get in trouble," she added.

It may be too late for her to worry about that.

According to the paper, troopers' interviews with fellow chemists at the lab "make clear that Dookhan's colleagues had concerns about her unusually large caseload and lab habits," going on to raise their concerns with lab supervisors.

But that's as far as their concerns went. Investigators discovered that supervisors "took little action even when they learned that she had forged other chemists' initials on some drug samples," said the Globe.

Dookhan's comments in the police report are the first the public has heard from her in the widening scandal. The report paints a picture of a woman who could have suffered an emotional breakdown and who was under suspicion for taking shortcuts in the lab for some two years.

When cops finally confronted her over the allegations with hard evidence of wrongdoing, she repeatedly confessed.

The report noted that, at one juncture, troopers suggested that Dookhan speak to her husband about hiring an attorney. But she explained she was going through serious marital issues and didn't have money to hire one.

Following the interview, State Police were so concerned about her state of mind they called her to make sure she wasn't suicidal, said the report.

Detective Lieutenant Robert Irwin was a trooper assigned to Attorney General Martha Coakley's office. He wrote in his report that he asked Dookhan if she ever had "bad thoughts."

"She said that the harm she was causing people would go through her mind every now and then," Irwin wrote. "I then asked her if she had thought of harming herself. She said no."

Well, at least it was "every now and then."

After authorities discovered the magnitude of Dookhan's actions, the state lab, located in Jamaica Plain, was closed.

Why no criminal charges yet?

During her nine-year tenure at the lab, Dookhan "handled 60,000 drug samples and sometimes provided expert testimony in court," the paper said.

Amazingly, so far Dookhan hasn't been charged with any crime; Coakley's office is still looking into whether any of her actions actually constituted breaking the law.

But wait - what about those who may have been wrongly convicted in some of the cases she handled?

Already, some 20 drug defendants have either been freed, had their sentences suspended or had their bail reduced because evidence in their cases was analyzed by Dookhan.

Many more could be freed as well, the paper said.

Investigators for Gov. Deval Patrick have identified more than 1,100 inmates in state penitentiaries or county jails whose cases were based on evidence given or handled by Dookhan, prompting Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey to call her case "one of the largest criminal snafus in the history of the Commonwealth."

We would have to agree.




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